Seattle Mayor Burgess seeks to regulate off-duty police jobs

Sep 27, 2017, 1:19 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2017, 11:11 am
Tim Burgess, mayor, business tax...
Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

One week after confirmation that the FBI is targeting Seattle cops’ off-duty work, Mayor Tim Burgess on Wednesday announced he will end the practice of private companies controlling the moonlighting for city cops while calling for a task force to restructure how the police force manages those hours.

“Practices were not stopped in the past, but ignoring them stops today,” Burgess said. “We will no longer allow police officers to assign off-duty jobs to other police officers.”

RELATED: Seattle cops off-duty work comes under investigation

The executive order ending the practice of private, third-party groups directing off-duty work of the city’s police officers comes in the wake of an ongoing FBI investigation into reports of price fixing, over charging and racketeering in connection with security and traffic control jobs performed by hundreds of Seattle police each week. For the past 20 years, the work has been largely run by two private companies, Seattle’s Finest and Seattle Security.

Under Burgess’ new order that will end. Instead, police administrators will assign and manage off-duty hours in-house. Burgess said he seeks a system similar to how Portland manages its off-duty police work.  Seattle Police Chief Katherine O’Toole also has backed the move.

Read O’Toole’s statement

But the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild defiantly did not. The union representing rank-and-file Seattle cops said any such changes much be negotiated with the union at the bargaining table.

“Why the need for another Executive Order?” Seattle Police Officers’ Guild President Kevin Stuckey asked in a prepared statement. “If there are changes sought by the City, why can’t those changes be accomplished at the bargaining table? This is yet another example of the City violating the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and State Labor Law.”

Stuckey said the union is prepared to fight the changes in court.

The investigation was sparked, in part, by an audit of the police department from 2016. In it, the police department’s CFO Brian Maxey admitted that the lack of control of off-duty hours was a growing problem. The department reached out to Blucadia in an effort to develop an internal tracking system for off-duty police work. But Blucadia met with aggressive resistance and open hostility from some cops in the department with ties to the two existing staffing companies.

In once such incident, captured in an internal memo that was given to investigators, a veteran officer allegedly bragged about how the officers planned to protect their lucrative off-duty work at Seattle City Light, for example: “Yeah, we would really break some bones if those (jobs) were messed with. Those jobs are a minimum of four hours (billed) and most are done in an hour and a half.”

Then four months ago, the outgoing head of the Police Accountability, Pierce Murphy,  told the city council that the lack of institutional control on off-duty police work is “a ticking time bomb.”

Andrew Finley, a former Pierce County sheriff’s deputy, and software developer Rob McDermott are the co founders of Blucadia. They both said Burgess is doing the right thing to attempt to track off-duty police employment.

“It’s a problem not just in Seattle but in most NFL cities across the country,” Finley said, referencing the lack of oversight on high-paid, off-duty cop security work at most professional stadiums. “It’s been kind of the wild west.”

McDermott said that Burgess and the police administration are doing exactly what the public should want: creating system that provides accountability to the public and fairness to the officers. “This is a positive step,” he said.

Burgess also called for the formation of a task force charged with developing recommendations on how the city will regulate officers’ off-duty work, such as traffic control or security. Burgess expects the group to come back to him with recommendations by Nov. 14, before he leaves office and a new mayor takes over.

“I intend to take action before I leave office,” Burgess said.

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Seattle Mayor Burgess seeks to regulate off-duty police jobs