Pittsburgh to revamp off-duty security rules
October 31, 2013 10:30 AM

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The city plans to revamp the way its officers are scheduled and paid for off-duty details, during which they work in uniform, but are paid by bars, restaurants and sports teams to provide security and traffic control.

The biggest change is that the city will use a private firm, North Carolina-based Cover Your Assets, to schedule the officers and collect the fees from the businesses, which will then be passed through to the officers.

The system is being reformed because of concerns that some officers unfairly got more assignments and, in some cases, were paid directly in cash by businesses. It also eliminates pay some officers got for being “schedulers” — which city officials felt was sometimes abused when businesses would pay one officer a scheduler’s fee simply to pick fellow officers to work a detail.

Abuses of the old system also led to federal charges against former Chief Nate Harper.

Harper has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing in federal court for funneling some detail money into unauthorized credit union accounts, then spending more than $31,000 on himself. The mishandled money derived from a fee the city charged businesses — $3.85 an hour on top of an officer’s hourly rate — for administering the off-duty work. Harper committed a crime by moving some of that money into non-city-controlled accounts, and by spending some of the money on non-police items.

Under the new system, Cover Your Assets will be paid by the city to schedule the off-duty details and act as a conduit for the money officers receive for working.

Officers will get nearly $43 an hour, the overtime rate for a fourth-year officer, for the off-duty details and the amount of extra work will be limited by seniority. Officers with less than 18 months on the job, for example, can’t work the details, and those with less than three years’ experience can work only 16 off-duty hours per week. That rises to 24 hours after three years and 32 hours for officers with four or more years’ experience.

Sgt. Mike LaPorte, president of the police union, said he’s worked with city Public Safety Director Mike Huss on the changes, but disputed whether they can take effect on Friday as planned.

LaPorte contends the union has 15 days to review new policies before they take effect.

The new rules also prevent officers from being paid cash directly by business owners for the off-duty work. Although the officers won that right in past collective bargaining, Huss said it’s better if the officers are paid through Cover Your Assets.

“Officers were taking cash and were not reporting it,” Huss said. “The last thing I want to see is them taking cash off of bar owners from a register.”

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