Seattle should take over managing the off-duty work of Seattle Police officers in uniform. The city currently has little control over officers’ side work, while private companies profit off the city-paid training of officers. A further disturbing twist is the exorbitant fees that city-owned City Light must pay to hire officers to direct traffic, which city policy requires.
City residents deserve assurance officers’ second jobs won’t impede their sworn responsibility to citizens. Officers’ moonlighting is a long-established source of extra income. It should not become a cash cow for a private contractor.
This was supposed to have been reformed years ago. A 2017 law passed by the Seattle City Council and subsequent order by interim Mayor Tim Burgess set in motion a process for civilian management of officers’ moonlighting. Had it been carried out, city residents could be sure officers were being held to a limit of 24 hours of off-duty work a week to stay fresh for their main jobs. City Light could avoid paying an inflated $139 an hour to the Seattle’s Finest Security and Traffic Control LLC for cops to direct traffic when needed on Sundays and holidays.
But the union balked. Mayor Jenny Durkan was unable to get this sensible reform into the collective bargaining agreement with police officers inked in 2018. In an interview, she said the city has been focused on officers’ on-duty situations after the Minneapolis Police killing of George Floyd stirred protests and more scrutiny of officers here. The department is working to retain good officers and further reforming policing practices.
But municipal oversight of officers’ off-duty work is a necessary safety and budgetary reform. The mayor should ensure this is a priority in negotiations for a new police contract to succeed the last, which expired in December.
Guild representatives should focus their deal making on other fronts and cede this reform.
As detailed by The Times’ reporter Daniel Gilbert, other cities exercise meaningful oversight over cops’ outside work, unlike Seattle. Durkan raised a legal liability concern if the city was in charge of officers’ moonlighting. But this appears to be unfounded. Police departments in New York City, New Orleans, Sacramento and Miami, among others, all manage the process themselves, providing multiple examples upon which Seattle could model reform.
Private staffing companies should not be profiteering off the badge, gun and publicly-funded training that come with hiring a Seattle police officer. This sensible reform can be a meaningful step toward rebuilding the fraught relationship between the police and public. Officers’ second jobs wearing the city’s uniform should not mean helping firms like Seattle’s Finest Security and Traffic Control to cash in when City Light needs help directing traffic.