Almost a fifth of Seattle’s police force was granted permission to work side gigs in 2017, with at least one officer balancing 16 ongoing permits with Seattle City Light and various construction entities, records show.
The records provide an additional window into explosive reporting by The Seattle Times in September. The Times reported that the FBI, at the request of Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, has been investigating allegations of price-fixing and intimidation by off-duty officers.
All told, 258 police officers received Secondary Employment Permits. Budget documents state that SPD has nearly 1,450 commissioned officers. Most of the permits are for flagging and security, although a handful of officers perform other kinds of duties, such as consultant work for organizations such as Taser International and training at Tiger Mountain Tactical, a private company that provides bike officer instruction.
Of those, 21 performed services for Seattle City Light, which The Times reported paid roughly $7.8 million over five years for services.
The practice of SPD officers taking extra jobs has been under the microscope for years. An audit of overtime practices at SPD revealed that the city had little knowledge of its officers’ off-duty work, potentially leading to officer fatigue and additional overtime costs.
It’s also confusing to the public because off-duty police may wear their uniforms and carry firearms.
Changes are underway. Mayor Tim Burgess signed an executive order taking the ability to grant off-duty work out of the hands of private companies and requiring a new SPD office to manage off-duty work.
That requirement is already enshrined in accountability legislation passed by the City Council, but Judge James Robart, the federal judge overseeing Seattle’s reform process, has not yet approved the legislation.
The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) lashed out against the executive order, announcing in a press release that it would take legal action “not to oppose the changes, but to demand that the City stop circumventing State Law.”
The organization insisted in the release that the changes could have been accomplished at the bargaining table, noting that more than 1,000 days have passed since spog members had last worked under a labor contract.
SPOG also listed policies around secondary work, including a requirement that officers receive a work permit for each job, that the permits must be approved by the chain of command and that no officer may work more than 24 hours of off-duty work each week.
According to the SPD website, a sworn officer earns $69,240 to $90,672 annually.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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