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Liability and Operational Implications of Off-DutyPolice Employment
James F. Pastor, PhD, JDAssociate Professor of Public Safety, Calumet College of St. Joseph; President,SecureLaw, Ltd.
Those familiar with the police culture know that just as the sun will rise in the east, sowill police officers work in part-time positions. It is widely accepted that police officersengage in various forms of part-time work, typically in some “security” function. Thispractice has existed for decades. This article will address the contemporary legal andsocietal implications of this age-old practice. In doing so, we will review typical policepractices related to off-duty police employment, set out the related legal principles,survey important cases, and then describe how contemporary circumstances may affectthese practices. In order to get a better sense of these issues, it is necessary to first take astep back to obtain a historical perspective.
Historical Observations and Operational ModelsHistorical Observations
As with any historical overview, it is necessary to identify an appropriate starting point todescribe the subject. For the reasons explained later in this article, we will commencewith the prohibition era. At the close of prohibition, it became clear that police officerswere exposed to many corrupting influences, arguably related tothe institutional style of policing common at that time. In order to limit corrupting influences, the rise of police asa “profession” became a widely advocated remedy.
As part of this movement towardprofessionalism, secondary employment of police was often restricted. For example, itwas common for police departments to prohibit police officers from wearing theiruniforms in an off-duty capacity. Related to this prohibition, a more compellingrequirement was also advocated: police officers could not exercise police powers onbehalf of private employers.
By the 1960s, these restrictions were gradually removed, orit least, relaxed. While the precise reasons for this change are hard to quantify, somefactors are apparent. First, as crime rates increased, it became increasingly obvious thatpolice agencies could not meet the demands of private sector employers for uniformedpersonnel.
Businesses were faced with growing crime rates coupled with reduced policepresence and response. With this situation, it is understandable that private firms soughtto secure their property and environment with uniformed police personnel. As this trendcontinued, the movement toward employment of off-duty police personnel becamewidespread.