When Cops Become Bill Collectors

Regardless of the circumstances, most of us are uncomfortable disagreeing with law enforcement officers. For obvious and appropriate reasons, our society is built upon the rule of law, and predicated on its members respecting and complying with those with the sworn authority to enforce those laws.

However, what happens when there is a disagreement with an officer working in an off-duty capacity, independent from his or her licensing agency?

How should your business respond if an officer providing a contracted service acts inappropriately while at your facility, or over bills for their time? Or conversely, what recourse do officers have when working a secondary employment detail and find themselves struggling to receive payment for services rendered to an individual or business? Situations such as these can cause serious, long-term public relations concerns for both the officer's agency and the citizens and businesses within their jurisdictions.

Off-Duty Security Services Are Growing Increasingly Popular

It is no surprise that incidents such as those described above are becoming more frequent.

U.S. companies increasingly rely on local off-duty peace officers to perform armed security and traffic control services, rather than engaging traditional uniformed security guards and guard companies. Conservative estimates indicate that each year, police officers in the U.S. perform nearly 100 million hours of service through secondary-employment opportunities worth over $3 billion dollars annually.

In most instances, those in need of an officer contact their local agency or a known representative and make a simple verbal request for an officer to appear at a specific location, at a designated time and states the requested services to be performed. The vast majority of these hours of service are performed without formal documentation of details normally found in simple service agreements such as:

  • Requested service
  • Duration
  • Rate
  • Designation of liability
  • Terms of payment

Common Issues for Businesses

Common issues businesses encounter with officers working off-duty are:

  • Excessive hourly rates
  • Subpar service
  • Timeliness
  • Overbilling

Most businesses are reluctant to dispute an officer's demand for payment out of fear of reprisals from the officer and fellow officers. The real or imagined consequences of a business damaging its relationship with a local law enforcement agency preclude many from engaging with the officer as they would a typical vendor.

Common Issues for Officers

Similarly, officers working secondary employment details often have difficulty navigating corporate waters. Some cops express frustration when working with businesses requiring them to report to multiple points of contact who provide conflicting instructions. Others cite payment delays or outright failure to compensate them. The vast majority of officers working off-duty security in the U.S. are doing so as independent contractors or sole-proprietors with little to no knowledge of common terms of payment or institutional risk. Officers are generally unfamiliar with the “civil” remedies available that other contractors rely on such as liens and instead refer to “criminal” statutes more familiar to them to force payment, such as Theft of Service.

Involvement of Law Enforcement Agencies

Many law enforcement agencies are finding it necessary, advantageous even, to charge administrative fees to those procuring the services of their officers when performing off-duty, contracted security services. These fees are charged by departments to offset expenses they incur administering off-duty work by their officers. Fees commonly include charges for scheduling and monitoring activities by designated agency contacts or secondary employment units, as well as the increased wear on department issued uniforms or equipment. Some fees also offset the agency’s increased liability for use-of-force during outside employment.

As law enforcement agencies increasingly take on the responsibility of managing their officers secondary employment activities, they are finding themselves dealing with common difficulties all service providers experience through the normal course of business. However, how far can or should a law enforcement agency go to collect payment from a private citizen or business entity, in remuneration for services provided by an officer working an “extra-duty” or “off-duty” job? Some might suggest that such debt collection activities diminish or dilute the standard of impartiality that a nation requires of those enforcing our laws.

Benefit of Involving Third Party Providers

The scenarios described above are just a few examples of why both businesses and law enforcement agencies are choosing to partner with third party providers to manage their off-duty programs. A competent and trusted solutions provider enables both parties to focus on their core mission, while ensuring that the needs and integrity of the officers, their agencies and the recipient of the services are being met.

ATHOS Group is a national security consulting and management firm specializing in providing, local, off-duty peace officers to deliver security services at industrial, commercial, restaurant, and retail properties.

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