WILKES-BARRE — Off-duty Wilkes-Barre police officers can make extra cash moonlighting as security guards at athletic events, fast-food restaurants and a housing project.
The police department’s Special Detail program places trained officers at public events or businesses at no cost to the city, said city administrative coordinator and spokesman Drew McLaughlin.
The issue of officers moonlighting as security guards at events surfaced this week as Kingston officials said they are conducting an internal review of officers providing security at events without approval. The municipality’s police chief has taken a paid leave of absence.
In Wilkes-Barre, off-duty officers who work special detail events are paid directly by the vendor who hires them for security, McLaughlin said, with the officer personally responsible to claim the extra income when they file taxes.
“They are basically private contractors,” McLaughlin said. “Their pay does not affect their pension or is counted as city time. They are supplemental officers working a private detail and are not part of a patrol platoon working that day or night.”
McLaughlin said there are several recurring special details, such as R/C Movies 14 and McDonald’s, both on East Northampton Street, and Wilkes-Barre Area school athletic events.
“Every detail that is offered needs to be approved by the chief of police,” McLaughlin said. “Several special details are recurring details and pre-authorized.”
Off-duty officers working a special detail have the same arrest authority they would if they were on duty.
McLaughlin said off-duty officers working details pay the city a fee to cover the use of cruisers as well as insurance coverage.
Across the Susquehanna River in Kingston, Mayor James Haggerty has said a review is needed after he found several discrepancies with requests for officers to work security jobs that may not have been authorized by police higher-ups. Kingston police Chief Keith Keiper voluntarily was placed on paid administrative leave while the review takes place, Haggerty said.
In Hanover Township, police Chief Al Walker said the practice of special detail in his department is “frowned upon.”
“Our policy indicates that any special detail, secondary employment that is police-related, has to come with an authorization by the police chief,” Walker said. “We don’t normally do details. They are very far and few in between.”
Security at Hanover Area football and basketball games is provided by state constables.
McLaughlin said officers who volunteer for special detail jobs are assigned by seniority.