Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chief Dan Oates and The Mangos Incident [UPDATED x2]

UPDATED on July 16 at 7:50 a.m.: Statement from Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police on off-duty employment embedded below or click here to read.

UPDATED at 4:45 p.m.: Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates announces changes in his department's policy regarding officers working off-duty jobs at Miami Beach nightclubs.  

Click to enlarge.


Every TV station in Miami had the story on their 6 o'clock show last night...

Local 10: Miami Beach police sergeant gets drunk at off-duty job, police say

WSVN: Miami Beach officer suspended for allegedly working drunk

CBS4: Miami Beach Cop Accused Of Being Intoxicated While Working Off-Duty Job

And every station - with a few minor variations - pretty much had the same story:

Someone saw a Miami Beach police sergeant, in uniform, at Mangos on Ocean Drive. The sergeant appeared to be drunk, so the person called the police department to report him. The midnight supervisor showed up and the sergeant was taken to the hospital for tests. Every station reported the sergeant's involvement with the infamous July 3, 2011 ATV crash.

But if any of those stations' viewers were wondering why a uniformed Miami Beach police officer was working at an establishment at 4:30 in the morning where alcohol was being served, they didn't get an answer from any of the TV news reports.

Only one news outlet chose to dig deeper, providing more detail and context to the story.

In this morning's paper, the Miami Herald's Chuck Rabin, Christina Veiga, and David Smiley reported:
An audit of the Miami Beach Police Department, released in late June, recommended prohibiting officers from working regular off-duty assignments.

“Among other things, officers can develop a sense of allegiance to a secondary employer and choose to ignore their sworn duty in order to protect a source of steady, supplemental income,” auditors warned.

In a city where clubs thump with music and drinks are poured until sunrise, auditors reported Miami Beach officers work 85,000 hours of secondary employment per year. That’s “the equivalent of having nearly 41 additional full-time police officers in uniform and working,” according to the report.

Auditors recommended establishing an office apart from the police department to coordinate off-duty shifts, with details assigned randomly by seniority.

Another recommendation: to prohibit command staff officers from working details because it “diminishes their standing.”
The department is still studying the recommendations in the audit, [Chief Dan] Oates said.

“Generally, I’m receptive to a lot of the recommendations,” he said.

Chief Oates, who's been on the job a little more than a month, gave an indication yesterday on how he intends to run his department.

Police spokesman Bobby Hernandez tells me that when Oates was notified of the incident shortly after it occurred, one of his first decisions was to have Hernandez issue a press release. "I want the public to hear it from me first. I don't want them to find out about it because of a leak," Oates told Hernandez.

Oates' next decision will be a little tougher. He has to decide whether or not he wants to take steps to ensure an incident like this never happens again.

Oates will no doubt be looking at one section of the police department audit referred to in the Herald story:
Many of the clubs in South Beach employ off-duty police officers to enhance security. Any number of issues can arise during the conduct of such details. The majority of these issues are similar to the same issues with which a police department is challenged on a daily basis.

The most serious of these issues involve secondary employment where a conflict of interest is present and a police department has approved the detail. Officers who work agency-approved, secondary employment are a legal extension of the approving police department, carry the same power and authority as on-duty police officers, are acting within the scope of their authority as sworn, certified police officers, are working as agents of the police department, and are directly accountable to the agency, as well as the community, for the performance of their duty while actively engaged in off-duty paid details. Because the agency has approved the secondary employment, the agency and its home jurisdiction (the City of Miami Beach in this case) have assumed the liability for the officers’ performance and may incur worker compensation costs for any injuries and/or disability suffered by officers working off-duty details. The city may also be exposed to legal liability for any challenged officer behavior while he/she is employed on the detail. It is therefore critically important for the city government and police administration to ensure adequate control over members of the department who choose to engage in secondary employment. Off-duty employment can be a source of a pattern and practice of officer misconduct. [Emphasis mine.]

There's one more thing Oates may want to consider when making his decision: The largest police department in the southeastern United States, the Miami-Dade Police Department, prohibits its officers from working any off-duty jobs at nightclubs or bars. The reason why can be found in the last sentence of the above paragraph.


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