Study group plans to review Arundel police's work policy

Second-employment, conflict-of-interest issues to be studied, chief says

April 06, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan is not going to be the person to say his officers can't have other jobs. He has a second job, too.

But in his first interview on the sometimes controversial topic of secondary employment, Shanahan said yesterday that he will be forming a study group to review the department's policy. He said the joint group of labor and management will make recommendations about what constitutes a conflict of interest for officers who have other jobs.

"We need to do some research," Shanahan said. "I want to be as fair as possible - to both county residents who expect alert, able officers, and to officers working to make extra money."

The department's secondary employment policy resurfaced as an issue in November when a county ethics commission official said working at a bingo hall could conflict with officers' responsibilities to regulate gaming operations.

The "advisory opinion" of the ethics commission's executive director, Betsy K. Dawson, was never put before the seven-member panel for an official ruling.

The right to work at bingo halls and dance clubs is negotiated through talks between the police union and county personnel officials. Shanahan said it may not be necessary for an ethics commission review once the advisory group makes its recommendations. "It could be that we only need to modify the policy slightly," he said.

Officials with the Fraternal Order of Police - which represents most of the officers, along with the sergeants' and black officers' associations - and command staff will be part of the group, which will research the secondary employment policies of other departments that have dealt with the issue.

In Anne Arundel, Shanahan said, more than 50 percent of the officers on the force have another job - sometimes two or three. When county officers' salaries fell behind those of most other jurisdictions, officers took extra work to support their families, Shanahan said. But in July, when officers received raises, there was no substantial decline in the number of officers with part-time jobs, he said.

Shanahan works on a contractual basis for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc., which accredits police departments around the nation.

Several times a year, Shanahan takes personal leave to inspect other departments. Some officers say the chief's job highlights the need for a uniform policy about what constitutes a conflict of interest.

FOP President Paul Ingley said he and Shanahan agree that there should be a clear policy about what is acceptable secondary employment. "There has to be a straight line," Ingley said.

Sgt. Bryan L. Heger, vice president of the sergeant's association, said he'd like to see a more uniform approach, including defining when officers may work in uniform off-duty. He suggested a county liaison to match officers with those interested in hiring police.

"That way you'd eliminate issues of police soliciting extra work," Heger said. "From the taxpayers' point of view, it makes sense to have businesses requiring more police service to pay for it."

Ingley said he hopes the study group will meet within the week and forward recommendations to the chief by the end of the month. Shanahan has authority to change department policy.

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