Webinar presenter Jeff Sweetin answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Trends in Off Duty Work: Challenges and Considerations. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Can you talk a little bit more about what are some of the reasons why this market is growing? Why demand is increasing?
Jeff Sweetin: I think because corporations are figuring out what their needs are so we deal with corporations that use both guards – low level and high-level guards and off-duty officers. I think what people are seeing is one, with all the fear about gun violence and active shooter situations, there are very few security solutions that address that and the assumption is and I agree with this that it trains active sworn law enforcement officer is your best bet for that. I think the other thing is there’s been a lot of negative publicity about guards and when you say guards you can mean a lot of different things. You can mean the retired policeman that’s had additional training, that’s carrying gun. But a lot of times what comes to mind when we talk about guards is kind of a low paid, just observe and report person and most people don’t believe in observe and report gets it done anymore.
Audience Question: How do you separate private securities from escorts by off-duty police officers? Or do you see those things prohibited especially in plain clothes?
Jeff Sweetin: We do both. Our company deals with both kind of the escort-piece, the plainclothes piece, and the full uniformed – a lot of officers use their used police cars which we pay additional agency for, of course. But we really don’t separate it except for the idea that many departments may not have any other policy but they will forbid certain types of work, for instance, a lot of departments will say you can’t do bodyguard work. Typically that’s just a great way to find out what was the last thing that went wrong. If a department says you can’t do bank drops with somebody, that probably means that that department has had a running gun battle in the parking lot at a bank drop. But we really do not separate it and I would say that you need different things at different times. If we’re called and a CEO of a company is going to do a five-city stop and he needs close protection by somebody that can go to all those places, that’s typically not a police officer. Police officers, lot of them, they’re going to have to get special permission to leave their area. Some of these jobs are cater-made for contractors that provide just that service. We don’t really separate it but we do look very carefully at what jobs do and don’t really apply to that officer. You have to look at the individual one, that there are jobs that are much more appropriate for private contractors with different levels of training.
Audience Question: You talked about ROI. Are most agencies, not recouping some of the costs of the investments in their officers from off duty works? Is that the case?
Jeff Sweetin: Great question. It’s all over the board. We deal with a lot of departments. We have another business model where we actually go in and help police agencies so our client in that is the agency so we spend a lot of time with chiefs and sheriffs. Some have figured it out. The highest I’ve ever seen is one that collects about 15 dollars an hour and their flush on cash when it comes to paying for extra training. There are some that do none. But I would say there is a good number of agencies out there that don’t collect a single penny off of the off-duty hour. The county where I live in Colorado collects I believe a dollar for every hour and it goes to widows and orphans so it goes to the charity. But interestingly some police departments and police chiefs don’t believe they can. They believe that’s an inappropriate way to collect funds. I completely disagree with that because I think the funds have already been laid out by the taxpayer but in answer to your question, yes there are many departments we deal with that don’t collect any funds at all.
Audience Question: You mentioned liability. What additional liability insurances or protections should officers be getting on their own if they’re going to do off-duty work?
Jeff Sweetin: It is that typical federal ex-DEA answer that says it depends. But I’ll tell you this: most officers are underinsured when they work and let me give you some recent examples. Most officers are covered by their liability through qualified immunity which basically protects an officer when they’re acting in a capacity that would be seen as within the scope of their employment if they were on duty. So there’s that bridge between if I could do it on duty, then I could do it off duty. Where we started to get in trouble with liability, our things like, imagine that you’re working off-duty at Walmart and I’m not picking on Walmart, but you show up on Walmart and when you step out of the car and you’re on your way, and you fracture your knee on a fall. If you’re an employee of Walmart, you probably would be covered because on the grounds of Walmart. If you fractured your knee arresting a shoplifter, you would probably be covered within qualified immunity by your agency because arresting shoplifters is part of your on-duty job. But what about when the job you’re doing at that moment is not within the scope of your employment? Then we run into situations where you may not be and if you’re a 10-99, I would say that you’re not covered by workman’s comp policy somewhere. Another quick example of that is traffic control, most states now require road closures to have an off-duty police officer on-site with flashing lights. Recent court decisions in those have said that if you’re sitting in a car watching YouTube videos with flashing lights then you might not be covered by your agencies on duty insurance policy. If you’re rear-ended which is not uncommon while you’re sitting there, you may have a problem. Here’s my advice to you. My advice is, first of all, know what you have. We’ve had police chiefs tell us they’ve talked to their insurance providers and their insurance providers have actually addressed their off duty work. Also, understand that this is a reason to outsource and I’m not doing a commercial but most companies like ours are so worried about the liability issue we either provide extra insurance for you or we offer it to you. Part of that is you may be offered as part of a detail an extra, you take one dollar less per hour but through that, you’re indemnified through your work situation. Ten years ago, it wasn’t an issue. We all thought we were covered on duty. I can tell you right now it is a big issue so check with your department, if you’re a union officer or if you are not, check with somebody that understands your insurance. I carried personal liability insurance when I was DEA agent for 27 years. We were well-covered. To me, there were things that didn’t cover me and was relatively cheap. My answer to you, I’ll simplify it by saying know what’s covered and know is the job I’m about to take, am I covered? Don’t assume that everything you do off duty is covered by your on-duty department. Sorry about the quick answer but it’s a big question
Audience Question: You talked about body-worn camera footage. Where does that body-worn camera footage go if it’s an off duty job? Does it go to the agency servers or does the company like yours coordinate that? Where does the footage go?
Jeff Sweetin: We don’t coordinate it but I’ll tell you, we have never had a case where an officer was wearing a body-worn camera off duty and then that footage was needed. Here’s what we believe will happen. Obviously, the people that are most upset of you are going to go to the people that is easiest to be upset at which is your law enforcement agency. Just look at it this way, if you are on your way home and just say that you had your camera on which I know it doesn’t work that way but humor me. You still have the body-worn camera on and you stopped to help a motorist and then it turned out to be a fight. You get into a shootout. They are going to go to your agency. The assumption is that the evidence that is maintained by your agency under no circumstance would a company like ours get involved in providing you with a body-worn camera, get involved and maintaining that. It would become a hey it’s up to your agency. That’s probably one of the reasons why some officers are not wearing cameras when potentially they should. It’s just an area that we just don’t know about. That’s evidence that’s going to be. When you take your camera back and you download it into the dock in your department, that evidence belongs to your department. That’s going to be an interesting situation between the company you are working for, the outsourcing company like mine, your agency, all of which are going to be named in whatever that lawsuit is. It’s another potential nightmare that we really don’t know what it’s going to look like. Right now the big criticism is why didn’t you have your camera on? If I were police chief I would say he didn’t have his camera on because he wasn’t on duty. we don’t put a camera on our officers when they are in their private time. Their either going to say what do you mean it’s their private time and you see where that argument go. Great question. I wish I knew the answer to that one, I’d be a millionaire.
Audience Question: If an agency is examining it’s off duty policies and kind of rethinking it, having heard your presentation. What are some of the 3 or 4 things they really need to think about or reexamine in light of some of the trends that you are seeing out of the market today?
Jeff Sweetin: I would like at the things first that cause the most problems. I would start by looking at are we clear on the liability piece and our officers clear? After that I would look at – cops always start with safety right? I should’ve started there but I still think of liabilities first. The next issue that I look at is from a safety standpoint, is an officer less safe because he is working 50 hours of off-duty a week, I believe a case could be made for that. I would look at what is the effect on the officer himself. I believe agencies owe their first allegiance to their employee and so I would look at what are the effects on the employee. Then from there, I would go into more policy issues. What’s the policy? What am I telling an officer he can’t do and what am telling an officer he can do. Interestingly, it is okay to have in policy what an officer can do, what they are allowed to do. It really is a minefield. If all else fails, have your agency call me. I’ll send them what I have on it. It’s really not that difficult. you just need to look at what’s going sideways around the country and so part of that liability piece, look at the workman’s comp issue. If your officers are there, is he under somebody’s workman’s comp and if not how do you get that covered? There are ways to do it but you don’t want to wait until there is an officer that is severely injured before you do that. You’re going to get my contacts. Have them email me and all. I’ll be happy to help you and there’s no way to charge for that. I’m not charging you for this.
Audience Question: You talked about some typical ways that officers are used. I also know that in honor of Hurricane Dorian and events like that, that there are some other ways that officers are also used in off-duty work. Can you talk about some of those different ways that you have seen officers used in off duty work?
Jeff Sweetin: Sure. That’s a very great example, very timely with Dorian. I’ll give you an example, our 24-hour watch center that sends officers to things has been working themselves almost to death in the last week. Some of the atypical things we see that are huge deployments of officers are things like hurricanes or tornadoes and large scale oil spills. Interestingly, those incidents are huge and I’m not overestimating my use of words, huge payments to officers. For example, we put hundreds of officers into Houston during Hurricane Harvey. We got them there before the hurricane made landfall. None of those officers were obviously from the surrounding area. All of those officers were recalled to duty, put on 12-hour shifts. A lot of times officers augment response to corporate needs that are clear corporate needs. Imagine what is Home Depot going to look like in Wilmington North Carolina if this storm beats up Wilmington. The police officers will not be able to work off duty during that storm so we would require them that the state either honor off duty officers from other states which is typical during a storm like that. The minute that happens, we get officers there. That is very atypical. It’s generally 24-hour days. 12 hours on, 12 hours off. You’re paid a huge hourly rate for 12 hours on and you are paid half of that to sleep in your car. It’s rough situations but we have officers work 3 weeks and they take 6 months’ worth of money. Very atypical, not your usual go-to 4 hours and work the restaurant. Anything where security is needed, you are going to find off duty officers working it.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Trends in Off Duty Work: Challenges and Considerations.