Throughout the year the need for a police presence goes above a normal patrol shift’s capabilities, which is why the public will often see a city police officer conducting extra duty.
It comes in all forms — parking lot patrols during church services, security at businesses where large sums of money are transacted and traffic control.
But the services aren’t free because the duty is outside the scope of the police department’s function.
“Patrol is obligated to patrol activities, answering calls for service, patrolling neighborhoods and community policing activities,” said Johnson City Police Major Mark Sirois.
“We can’t guarantee an officer would be available if there is a need for security,” he said.
That’s why off-duty officers are hired to perform police duties at a specific location or function.
“It’s totally voluntary,” on the officer’s part, Sirois said.
When a business or organization needs to hire off-duty police officers, the bill comes in two parts.
“The officer is a set amount per hour and that usually gets paid directly to the officer,” Sirois said. Then there is an additional fee for the use of the officer’s city police cruiser if it is part of the actual detail. That money is paid directly to the city.
An example Sirois gave is when officers are needed as an escort when a house is being moved from one location to another. But when an organization requests an exterior patrol to watch for auto burglaries while patrons are at an event, the officer’s car may not be needed, Sirois said.
Many of these “off-duty” jobs are available to officers during the holidays, too.
A local “big box” store hires off-duty officers on high-volume shopping days — particularly Black Friday and Christmas Eve.
Franklin Terrace shopping center, which houses Cheddars, Barnes & Noble and other shops and restaurants, also hires officers for traffic control during high-volume times to help patrons get into and out of the center.
Some off-duty work, such as the Blue Plum Festival and Umoja, qualifies as overtime that is paid by the city because those are city functions.
Whether it’s overtime from the city or off-duty work for a business, the extra work benefits the officers as well as the organizations that hire them, Sirois said.
“It’s a good opportunity for officers to use the skills they have learned over the course of a law enforcement career to earn the extra money, but it also provides another level of public safety,” he said.