Au­dit faults off-duty jobs

Study says cops work too many hours with lack of over­sight

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - By TASHA TSIAPERAS and ROBERT WILONSKY Staff Writ­ers

Dal­las po­lice of­fi­cers are work­ing too long and too of­ten for off­duty em­ploy­ers, says a city au­dit re­leased Fri­day.

In Dal­las, of­fi­cers can end up work­ing longer hours at their off­duty jobs than in their ac­tual po­lice work, and their bosses of­ten don’t stop them.

Other ci­ties, ac­cord­ing to the city au­dit, se­ri­ously limit how much cops can work off duty.

Cur­rently, of­fi­cers can work up to 72 hours at off­duty jobs each week. The au­dit sug­gests the amount be slashed to 24 hours a week, which could have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on how much ex­tra money of­fi­cers take home.

Mayor Mike Rawl­ings said in a state­ment he knows many of­fi­cers rely on off­duty jobs to sup­port their fam­i­lies and that busi­nesses need uni­formed of­fi­cers for se­cu­rity.

“How­ever, it does us all a dis­ser­vice if we don’t fol­low our own or­ders in­tended to keep po­lice and the pub­lic safe,” he said.

The Po­lice Depart­ment’s gen­eral or­ders limit of­fi­cers to work­ing 16 hours a day, on duty or oth­er­wise.

The prob­lem is it’s not even clear ex­actly how much of­fi­cers are work­ing off duty “be­cause DPD does

15-hour shift

The depart­ment re­cently was crit­i­cized for the long hours cops work af­ter off­duty Of­fi­cer Am­ber Guyger fa­tally shot 26­year­old Botham Jean in­side his own apart­ment.

Guyger was in full uni­form and re­port­edly had just got­ten off a 15­hour shift. She told in­ves­ti­ga­tors she went to the wrong floor and tried to get into Jean’s apart­ment be­liev­ing it was her own.

The in­ter­nal re­view of work hour poli­cies in the Po­lice Depart­ment be­gan al­most a year be­fore the Septem­ber shoot­ing.

“This was be­ing looked at way be­fore the Guyger shoot­ing,” said Michael Mata, pres­i­dent of the Dal­las Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion.

Mata echoed the mayor and said that of­fi­cers need the off­duty jobs and that busi­nesses, in­clud­ing churches and syn­a­gogues, like to em­ploy uni­formed cops.

“The need is there,” Mata said. “It all comes down to re­ally we don’t have enough of­fi­cers.”

The depart­ment has a lit­tle more than 3,000 of­fi­cers, well be­low peak lev­els of about 3,700.

Though of­fi­cers are sched­uled just 40 hours a week, they of­ten stay late tak­ing some­one to jail or re­spond­ing to calls, which could push them over the rec­om­mended 16­hour limit if they’re also work­ing off­duty jobs.

The au­dit doesn’t de­tail how to re­duce the num­ber of hours of­fi­cers stay on the job. It sim­ply says the to­tal num­ber of hours cops work should be de­

creased, pri­mar­ily fo­cus­ing on lim­it­ing off­duty jobs.

Ac­cord­ing to DPD’S Gen­eral Or­der 421.00, which is sup­posed to reg­u­late the off­duty em­ploy­ment pro­gram, “work­ing ex­tra jobs is a priv­i­lege and not a right,” says the au­dit.

Po­lice Chief U. Reneé Hall re­leased a state­ment Fri­day af­ter­noon say­ing the au­dit fo­cuses on the “hours that of­fi­cers spend on off­duty jobs they vol­un­tar­ily choose to work.”

“We have re­viewed the re­sults and agree with the find­ings that have been pre­sented. Pol­icy re­view is un­der­way and we look for­ward to im­ple­ment­ing the changes that are nec­es­sary to en­sure the safety of our of­fi­cers and the com­mu­nity,” Hall said.

Lack of con­trols

The au­dit crit­i­cizes the depart­ment for fail­ing to have “im­por­tant in­ter­nal con­trols” re­lated to its off­duty work pro­gram.

The au­dit an­a­lyzed the pe­riod be­tween Oc­to­ber 2015 and Septem­ber 2017 and found that of the 276,455 re­quests to work off­duty jobs, 99 per­cent were ap­proved. Of those, 86,851 weren’t ap­proved un­til

af­ter the off­duty job be­gan.

Many other big­city de­part­ments, among them Hous­ton and Detroit, Hall’s home­town, do not al­low this. If those ci­ties al­low the off­duty jobs, they have a “ded­i­cated or cen­tral­ized au­thor­ity over the off­duty em­ployee pro­gram,” the au­dit says. Many also es­tab­lish rates of pay for of­fi­cers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the off­duty pro­gram.

Mata said he’s con­cerned the city might try to con­trol how much busi­nesses pay of­fi­cers, and he fears the city might charge busi­nesses a fee to use off­duty of­fi­cers.

Off­duty cops can be seen work­ing at con­certs, sport­ing events, pa­rades and large races, among them the an­nual Dal­las Marathon. The city doesn’t pay for the over­time in those cases, said Ter­rance Hop­kins, pres­i­dent of the Black Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion of Greater Dal­las.

Hop­kins or­ga­nizes po­lice re­sponse to those large out­door events, such as the re­cent Dal­las Bike Ride down­town. He said those jobs usu­ally aver­age about four hours at a time.

Of­fi­cers have been told city of­fi­cials are re­view­ing the au­dit but have not been told whether any changes will be made.

Hop­kins said that it’s too soon to say what the re­ac­tion will be but that “of­fi­cers will be con­cerned be­cause that’s one of the ways you make some ad­di­tional in­come. That’s im­por­tant to peo­ple.”

Ex­hausted cops

The au­dit re­lies, too, on out­side re­search, in­clud­ing the 2002 study “Tired Cops: The Preva­lence and Po­ten­tial Con­se­quences of Po­lice Fa­tigue.”

That study found that in more than 60 big ci­ties across the coun­try, many of­fi­cers were of­ten work­ing some­where be­tween 80 and 100 hours a week — and oc­ca­sion­ally more. The study said that of­fi­cers in all po­lice de­part­ments work “sub­stan­tial amounts” of over­time, and that more than half moon­light.

As a re­sult, said the study, many of­fi­cers and their man­ agers re­ported “per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences with fa­tigue, ex­haus­tion, and ex­treme drowsi­ness.”

And 11 out of 15 ci­ties sur­veyed in the au­dit limit their of­fi­cers to work­ing 36 or fewer off­duty hours per week.

“It ap­pears our num­ber is not in line with best prac­tices,” said North Dal­las City Coun­cil mem­ber Jen­nifer Staubach Gates, chair of the coun­cil’s Gov­ern­ment Per­for­mance & Fi­nan­cial Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee.

“We have a lib­eral al­lowance for over­time hours and have no idea how many are work­ing that amount. It may be no one, but we would never know be­cause of the lack of con­trols.”

Sup­port for change

Gates, who had been briefed on the au­dit be­fore its re­lease Fri­day, does not doubt there will be push­back from of­fi­cers who work the max­i­mum hours al­lowed.

“But we have to im­ple­ment,” she said. “The chief has agreed, and we will sup­port her. The risk is too high.”

Per­haps, Gates said, in­creased salaries ap­proved by the coun­cil in Septem­ber will soften the blow. Start­ing salaries went from around $49,000 to nearly $60,000. And all first­re­spon­ders mak­ing about the start­ing salary will re­ceive a 3 per­cent raise in Jan­uary.

What­ever city of­fi­cials de­cide to change in the Po­lice Depart­ment will also need to be changed with Dal­las Fire­res­cue, the au­dit says.

2017 File Photo /Staff

walk the beat in Deep El­lum on a busy Sat­ur­day. An au­dit rec­om­mends that Dal­las po­lice be lim­ited to 24 hours a week in off­duty jobs in­stead of the cur­rent 72.

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