Moonlighting police now may not wear city uniforms Former policy allowed to expire

April 25, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Citing liability concerns, Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods quietly let die a policy that would have allowed officers to wear their uniforms while moonlighting in security jobs, a department spokesman said.

"There is a real legal problem putting officers out there in uniform in an off-duty capacity," Sam Ringgold, a police spokesman, said recently, explaining the commissioner's action.

The policy was negotiated in November 1991 by Lodge 3 of the Fraternal Order of Police, the bargaining agent for Baltimore police officers. Commissioner Woods then sent it to a departmental committee for study and reserved the right to reject.

The seven-member committee was headed by Col. Joseph P. Newman, who was in charge of the Special Operations Division at the time.The panel was made up of police officers and the department's legal adviser, Assistant City Solicitor Rebecca Tabb.

Colonel Newman retired last April to take a position with the state Juvenile Services Administration.

Some time ago, the committee, which no longer exists, recommended against implementing the policy, saying there was a liability problem, Mr. Ringgold said.

He said Commissioner Woods agreed and let the policy die quietly. The policy's fate was not known until a reporter inquired about it 10 days ago.

Mr. Ringgold said moonlighting officers are allowed to wear their uniforms at Johns Hopkins, Bon Secours and Church hospitals because those institutions have "accepted liability" for the officers.

He estimated that 80 percent to 85 percent of the 2,880 sworn officers in the Baltimore department moonlight.

Lt. Leander S. Nevin, president of FOP Lodge 3, said he finds it difficult to accept the department's explanation for rejecting the policy.

"They're liable for our actions 24 hours a day," he said. "If I'm off-duty and I see a crime being committed and get involved, they are just as liable for that."

"It doesn't make sense," Lieutenant Nevin said. "Our people want to do it. It makes sense. It would really be beneficial to have those extra uniforms on the street."

"I just think the problem is that nobody wanted to make a decision on it," Lieutenant Nevin said.

On April 14, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden announced that county police officers who work part-time as security guards at local malls and shopping centers will be allowed to wear their police uniforms and carry their handguns and police radios, beginning June 1.

The new county policy is intended to increase the visibility of officers and make shoppers feel safer. It carries certain restrictions and requires operators of malls and shopping centers to provide proof of liability insurance.

The malls and shopping centers have to pay the county 75 cents an hour for use of the uniform, plus $2 an hour for use of a county police radio.

While the idea is a first for Baltimore County and a reversal of past policy, Prince George's County police officers have been allowed to wear their uniforms while moonlighting for more than 20 years.

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