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FOP counters proposed policy change for moonlighting police officers

Idaho Falls

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IDAHO FALLS — The Idaho Falls City Council is considering a policy change that would impact off-duty police officers who work an additional job.

During a council work session this month, Idaho Falls Police Chief Mark McBride requested the city attorney’s office help develop a reasonable, standardized policy that would allow the police department and its employees to provide extra-duty, uniformed police services and off-duty, non-uniformed services to public or private entities.

Some concerns with unregulated off-duty work is fatigue with officers, employment conflict, and the accusation that officers may be using sick leave benefits to get out of a scheduled shift to go to off-duty work.

Idaho Falls Human Resources Director Ryan Tew tells the new policy came about after two cases were brought against the city’s risk management committee several months ago in which the city incurred liability under the existing secondary employment practice. After a thorough review, the committee recommended the change, Tew says.

McBride’s proposal, in part, states there is no desire stop officers from off-duty work. Moreover, it is to protect the city from liability. But the Fraternal Order of Police sees it differently.

“The proposed policy changes for this category of secondary employment have been designed in such a way as to discourage most secondary employers from considering engaging off-duty officers for employment,” FOP attorney Laurie Gaffney says in written response to the proposed policy change. “The policy effectively forces employers to pay overtime rates for officers in addition to other employment taxes and expenses.”

McBride said the city should be concerned about liability.

“When city employees who are sworn peace officers engage in activities as peace officers, even off duty, that are legally considered automatically and immediately to be in the employment of their governing body,” McBride wrote in a memorandum to Mayor Rebecca Casper. “Liability for injury and damages to the employee or to others remains the city’s legal and financial responsibility.”

Part of the proposal would prevent officers from wearing police uniforms, badges or using city-issued electronic devices and programs, including email, cell phones and fax machines, while working off duty.

Any officer seeking secondary work must first get approval by submitting an application through the chain of command, and the police chief would have final say.

Applying officers must be in good standing with the police department and have completed their probation period if they are new officers. Secondary employment would be considered a privilege, meaning that it can be revoked as a disciplinary action.

Officers who are on sick or medical leave would not be eligible to take part in secondary employment and there would be a 24-hour secondary employment cap, or a total of 60 hours combined with IFPD duty per week.

The policy would prohibit officers from working for employers where police authority could be used, like a bail bondsman, towing of vehicles, private investigation or bill collecting.

The change purposed is similar to how other police departments in the state operate; in fact, the policy is nearly identical to the Meridian Police Department’s. Boise and Twin Falls police departments also require similar steps for officers who want to work an additional job.

Gaffney believes the FOP and IFPD could find common ground on a number of the proposed policy changes, to include:

  • A secondary employment policy is necessary and appropriate.
  • Police officers owe their primary duty of loyalty to the department, ensuring that officers are properly rested and fit for duty.
  • Officers should not engage in secondary employment while they are receiving sick time/pay from their primary law enforcement employment.
  • City property, funds and personnel should not be used in or for the benefit of secondary employment.

In addition, the FOP disagreed with a section that could limit officers from participating in its organization.

As written in the proposed policy, the definition of secondary employment includes volunteer work that is law enforcement related. The right to participate in membership, leadership and benefits of the FOP would be subject to the consent and approval of the police chief.

The Idaho Falls Fraternal Order of Police is a non-profit fraternal organization that provides personal, professional, departmental and legal assistance to its members.

Gaffney says any officer’s membership in the FOP could be terminated by the police chief as discipline for any infraction, as the proposed policy is written.

To read the proposed policy by change by McBride, click here.

To read the response by the FOP, click here.

The council plans to revisit the proposal during another work session next month.