Extra duty policing blurs public, private interests
Police officers can be hired by private businesses for a fee
November 19, 2014, 10:55 PM AST
Last updated January 12, 2015, 8:54 PM AST
Richard Kohl says he wasn’t at the former Palace nightclub for very long one night in 2012 before the bouncers picked him out.
“We were all dancing at the bar and they must have pinged me for the wrong guy or something,” he says.
Kohl, who says he was sober at the time, was told he was being too rowdy and was escorted out by two bouncers. Outside, he was met by two Halifax Regional Police officers posted there.
“They asked the bouncers if I was causing a problem and then took me and put me in the back of the paddywagon, took me right to the drunk tank,” he says.
What Kohl didn’t know at the time was that those officers weren’t on duty and patrolling a beat, but on their day off working an extra shift.
“[They] didn’t ask me any questions, didn’t issue any sort of sobriety test. [It was] purely based on the word of the bouncers,” he says.
The process is called extra duty and it’s a policy that allows the Halifax Regional Police — and police forces in cities across the country — to contract out their officers to local businesses to supplement security or provide peace of mind.
The officers wear their complete uniform, carry a sidearm and have all the regular powers a police officer has, but are paid for and respond to whoever their client is at the time. Those clients include managers of sporting events, film shoots, festivals and bars.
Constable Pierre Bourdages of the Halifax Regional Police says that on a week-to-week basis police officers are hired, mainly by bars, to work extra duty shifts on officers’ days off. The bars must pay $63.79 an hour for each constable and $75.92 for each sergeant, coming out to almost double what those officers would make while on duty.
Extra duty officers must work a minimum of four hours. The city then charges a three per cent administration fee on the total cost, as well as HST.
Businesses also have access to police department vehicles such as police cars and motorcycles. All requests must be approved by the Halifax chief of police.
“Officers are still performing law enforcement duties in the area and do not replace existing security guards,” Bourdages said.
Gary Muise, vice-president of operations at Grafton Connor Group, says The Dome and Cheers hire extra duty police officers on Saturday nights to supplement existing security.
Kohl sees the advantages of having police on hand, but after his encounter, he questions the relationship between bars and the police.
“You don’t bite the hand that feeds and (officers) are not going to lash out against the bar. They should be there as an unbiased party,” he says.
Thea Vandyke, a student at Dalhousie University, says that while she can understand why police officers should be posted outside the bars, the fact that they are being paid by the bar makes her uncomfortable.
“[The bars] may have some kind of influence over what [the police officers] are doing. The police are supposed to protect the public interest, so businesses hiring police officers to be there seems a little bit odd to me.”
According to the Nova Scotia Police Act, section 56(1) paragraph (d), while on extra duty police officers are under the orders of the police department and no one else. However, there is no policy or act governing police conduct or expectations while on extra duty.
Wayne MacKay, a professor of law at Dalhousie University, says extra duty shifts could cause people to confuse public agents with private interests.
He says if a serious incident occurs between a patron and an extra duty officer, there could be some tough questions to answer about who is liable. Administrative policy, employment laws and criminal law, among others, may overlap and dissuade people like Kohl from appealing their case.
Halifax Regional Police say any time extra duty officers respond to incidents the event is logged as per normal procedure. The Dome and Cheers have their own internal records but these are not available to the public, says Muise.
Problems in the United States
Recently in the United States, an 18-year-old was killed by a police officer on extra duty in St. Louis. In the U.S. 83 per cent of police departments have some policy on the books for secondary policing, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the past, both New Orleans and New York City have had issues with corruption in their secondary policing units, with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division calling the New Orleans Police Department secondary policing detail an “aorta of corruption.”
Halifax is not the only city to provide extra duty officers. Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal police also provide extra duty services to private businesses. In 2008 the Toronto Star performed an investigation, discovering that police in Toronto were raking in millions moonlighting in menial jobs throughout the city. There, police set up a separate company operating out of the police station charging taxpayers to have officers watch over construction sites or open manholes. Since 2008, the price for an extra duty member, and the number of officers signed up for the program, has risen sharply in Toronto.
Christian Leuprecht, a politics professor at the Royal Military College of Canada told the Toronto Star earlier this year police officers have come to expect overtime as part of their compensation package.
“In effect, it’s a salary subsidy,” he said.
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