There is a recent news story making its way around the law enforcement community regarding off-duty police work and its potential elimination. While this account solely focuses on one police force, the issues brought the surface are illustrative of the misconceptions commonly associated with the topic of off-duty work as a whole.
In light of a recent corruption investigation, Jersey City, NJ mayor Steven Fulop has revealed his plan to “end the police off duty program in its entirety.“ With 10 officers, including the former Chief of Police, pleading guilty to corruption charges in recent weeks, Mayor Fulop’s immediate reaction initially seems logical. It’s not unreasonable to conclude that simply eliminating the source of corruption would solve the city’s problems. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t.
According to the latest reports, officers from JCPD collectively pull in around $16 million dollars each year off the clock through the current paid detail system. Not to mention the sudden reduction of income the officers and their families rely on should this off-duty work be eliminated, we must further examine the scope of the work that the officers are providing and determine if eliminating it is really the best option for all parties involved.
Is it really feasible to eliminate the uniformed police presence and solely employ private security guards at concerts and festivals? How about directing traffic on our roadways during road closures and construction? Of course not. It’s safe to assume a healthy portion of that $16 million-dollar figure is raked in by officers working at large events or long-term 24-hour details on municipal construction sites and roadways. These details require a uniformed police presence, regardless of whether or not the officers are considered “off-duty.” The only difference is that by eliminating the off-duty employment system, the security details would then require on-duty officers. This would come at the expense of the taxpayers, rather than the organizations requesting the security. Of course, the department could (and should) invoice those organizations to recoup the cost of the officer’s overtime- but they would still need to develop that process and assign administrators to manage it, all of which comes at a cost.
Now, I should take a moment to clarify. I am generalizing, and I am unaware of how Jersey City PD is currently manning these specific details. However, the fact of the matter remains that some jobs simply cannot be outsourced to the private sector as a matter of public safety.
So, what about the details that can be outsourced? Sure, smaller loss-prevention or site-security positions that employ off-duty officers throughout the community could be outsourced to the private sector. But, would the increased call volume that would result really benefit the city? Business owners already have the option to hire far more affordable private security guards but prefer to hire off-duty officers instead. They do this because uniformed police officers are a more effective crime deterrent. Elimination of those positions would result in higher call volumes and would ultimately require utilizing on-duty assets to deal with situations that could have been handled by an off-duty officer or avoided altogether.
In a Tweet regarding this issue, Major Fulop stated, “On duty police work is the job. To this point, we can all agree. However, you also need to acknowledge that off-duty employment has significant benefits to on-duty policework. In Jersey City’s case, their off-duty employment is equal to having more than 200 additional officers or another entire district at no measurable cost to the taxpayers. Having additional department representatives throughout the community at any given time not only reduces call volume and improves response times for on-duty assets, it helps build and foster community relationships, as well.
In addition to the numerous benefits off-duty employment provides and the potential department burdens that could result in eliminating off-duty work entirely, officers and their families rely on the additional income they earn from working off-duty details. Suddenly taking away nearly $20,000 of annual income from anyone is going to significantly affect their livelihood but is even more impactful to the officers of Jersey City where rent prices are among the highest in the country.
So, what is the solution? Start managing the off-duty employment program that is already there.
Establishing and enforcing an effective secondary employment program is easier today than ever. Not only are there numerous resources regarding industry best practices, there are also cloud-based management and scheduling solutions available to automate the entire process.
Detail management software centralizes details- making them secure and accessible. The software provides administrators with oversight and accountability, a level playing field for officers to find opportunities that fit their availability, and the convenience for organizations to make requests and pay for their security needs digitally. Digital management of secondary employment details provides benefits to officers and the community. The reports and actionable insights available help transform the entire program from a department liability into a valuable administrative tool.
Off Duty Blue has been working with departments all over the country to create a detail management solution that is simple enough for any officer, configurable enough for any department, and affordable for any budget.