Minneapolis leaders create task force after concerns about department's off-duty work

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Minneapolis leaders are concerned about the number of hours police officers are working off-duty and the policy regulating the practice.

Mayor Jacob Frey, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, City Council members and the Police Federation plan to meet one to two times a month to develop recommendations to improve how off-duty work is managed.

The task force was announced on Wednesday.

“Right now, off-duty work happens in a largely unregulated system,” said Council Member Linea Palmisano. “Not only does that impact performance and safety but it also impacts accountability we have with our MPD.”

In September, an audit of MPD's off-duty policy identified four areas that needed to be improved, including better oversight and tracking of off-duty work.

The department allows private companies to hire officers. A commander has to approve each job, according to the audit.

Officers are also supposed to report if they work more than 64 hours, including both on and off-duty jobs, in one week. According to the audit, “the notification can be verbal and is not enforceable or documented. In addition, notification occurs inconsistently at various stages in off-duty work processes.” 

City leaders addressed the critical report as they announced the task force. 

“The perhaps most obvious issue identified was the department’s ability to track and then monitor off-duty data,” said Frey.

Frey told reporters that about 100 officers worked three days worth of off-duty hours in just one week. He said that happened five times in one year.

“An officer’s off-duty work can effect on-duty performance,” said Frey. “If your partner is constantly tired, it means you're likely working double time to pick up their slack.”

According to the Minneapolis Police Department, more than half of officers take extra jobs. They provide security at local businesses and big events.

“We want our police officers to have good relationships with local businesses but, of course, when you develop a good relationship with a local business you’re also more likely to get asked to work a shift where they may need additional public safety assistance,” Frey said.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out how to track it and how to improve the system in the future.”

In some cases, Frey said businesses are required to hire an off-duty officer to get a license to operate. The city is also liable when officers are at their off-duty jobs.

Officers perform them while in uniform and often have a marked squad car.

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“There are many people in our community that do not discern between when an officer is in uniform — if they’re working full time for the city or if they have an obligation to this private business,” said Arradondo.

Council Member Steve Fletcher said that creates a gray area for the public.

“They see someone in a uniform, they can’t tell who is off-duty,” said Fletcher. “They ask for help that they don’t receive, it diminishes trust in the force."

Fletcher said it can also put officers in a difficult position.

“The tension becomes who is your obligation to?” he said. “If you’re being paid by this business to stand in front of this business and maintain safety there, at what point do you leave?”

The task force plans to look at that, along with how to improve oversight and accountability. They will also analyze which jobs are being selected.

“The way we're doing it now amounts to effectively privatizing MPD resources, and this task force can help us create a more level playing field in a way that ensures officer health and ensures public safety,” said Frey.

Police Federation Vice President Sherral Schmidt said she doesn’t think the audit gives a complete picture of off-duty work.

“We firmly believe we can provide a clear picture of what off-duty work looks like and how we can move forward into making the process better within the city,” she said.

Schmidt also acknowledged officers have concerns about the system changing.

“With some of our members thinking they're going to lose income,” she said. “We hope that through this process we'll negotiate something that works for our members.”

The task force hopes to have preliminary recommendations by June.

Concerns over off-duty work surfaced during the trial of former police officer Mohamed Noor, who was sentenced to prison for shooting and killing Justin Ruszczyk Damond.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS previously reported Noor had already worked a seven-hour shift at a private business before starting his shift.

“The Mohamed Noor case was not the genesis for this work, this leadership team moving forward,” said Arradondo. “But certainly, again, if we gather information from this task force that will better help in making sure in the event an officer-involved shooting should occur, that our officers are getting the rest they need, they're not being sleep deprived, they're as well as they can be, that is always going to be helpful for us."

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