The recently disclosed FBI investigation into off-duty work by Seattle police isn’t the first time the city has faced controversy over the lucrative practice. One former department watchdog said allowing off-duty work that isn’t managed by the city is a “ticking time bomb.”
For years, the Seattle Police Department has wrestled with the murky world of off-duty work.
At best, the practice of officers working security or directing traffic helps promote good behavior at movie theaters and ballgames, and keeps cars moving around construction sites and from parking garages at rush hour.
At worst, officers have flouted off-duty work rules, including one officer who turned the Belltown entertainment district into his personal playground before he was fired in 2005. He got free meals and drinks on the job, internal-investigation records showed, and set up off-duty security work at nightclubs for himself and other officers in violation of department rules prohibiting employment at liquor establishments.
The issue resurfaced last week when it was disclosed the FBI was investigating allegations that Seattle police officers, with the help of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), may have engaged in intimidation and price-fixing while working lucrative off-duty jobs directing traffic at parking garages and construction sites.
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“It’s back to the future. Nothing changes,” said one former law-enforcement official who worked on the Belltown case more than 10 years ago and requested anonymity.
While there have been patchwork efforts to fix problems over the years, the overall system still operates outside the control of the Police Department with little oversight.
The current investigation stems from the efforts of an Olympia-based startup company, Blucadia, to break into the lucrative off-duty market in Seattle with its Uber-like model of matching customers to officers seeking off-duty work.
It was given a portal on the Police Department’s website earlier this year, putting it in competition with two long-entrenched companies that provide police-guild members to private employers.
Brian Maxey, the Police Department’s chief operating officer, also offered his own personal endorsement on the company’s website, to the displeasure of Kevin Stuckey, the president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild.
Blucadia officials allege…