Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cops for Hire?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 4:22 PM

Do shoplifters have you wanting an added police presence at your local business? Does that rash of car break-ins have you and your neighbors wishing for a dedicated officer that could spend nights circling your block? Maybe you just don’t like the look of your daughter’s friends and want a little extra security to fend off trouble at the bounce house you rented for her birthday?

Well, you may be in luck. Tonight, the Eureka City Council is slated to consider a proposed ordinance governing the hiring out of additional police services, or the practice of providing additional policing to a “person, corporation, firm or organization” that desires it and is willing to foot the bill.

The ordinance would formalize a practice the Eureka Police Department kicked off in March, when the city agreed to provide the Bayshore Mall — which was dealing with a spate of unsavory activity — with an officer to walk the mall in four- to five-hour shifts, seven days a week for about a month. Under the agreement, the mall paid Eureka $50 an hour for the service. While such arrangements are commonplace in other parts of the state and the country, it was the first of its kind in Eureka and apparently spurred Eureka City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson to put together a formal policy.

As the Bayshore Mall contract wound to a close, City Manager Greg Sparks said he was open to repeating the practice elsewhere if the need arose and the city could get its costs covered. Mills agreed, but said he was leery of spreading officers too thin in a small department (the contract work is done voluntarily as overtime but could still have a cumulative effect). Mills also said back in April that there was a need to proceed cautiously, especially around the prospect of providing additional services to residential areas. “I want to be careful that we’re not, you know, providing special police services for those with the finances to pay,” Mills said. “I think it’s important for us to police equally in all parts of the city.”

Under the proposed ordinance, the police chief would have discretion as to whether to enter into such agreements on a case-by-case basis, but it makes clear the opportunity to request such a contract would be open to individuals and organizations, as well as businesses. The proposed ordinance also requires that any contracting entity hold the city harmless from all liability, and specifies that it does not create any “special relationship” between the contracting entity and the department.

A staff report on the proposed ordinance states that officers staffing the contracted shifts will remain under the control and direction of the chief and will not be considered employees of whoever is paying for their services, but that is not explicitly stated anywhere in the draft ordinance. The staff report makes clear the proposed ordinance is not intended to be a cash cow for the city. “The purpose of the proposed ordinance is not to generate revenue for the city, rather it is to allow the city to provide additional police services, thus improving public safety, without incurring greater costs,” it states.

For more information, view the city’s staff report here or past Journal coverage of the Bayshore Mall agreement here.
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