WILKES-BARRE — Off-duty officers working security at businesses and athletic events known as special details are required to reimburse the city 10 percent of their detail wage, explained Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association President Tom Kupetz.
The reimbursement per detail covers liability insurance and cruisers if one is required under a special detail contract with a vendor, Kupetz said.
Officers while off-duty have the opportunity to take on extra assignments to earn money in addition to their city salary by providing security under the police department’s special detail program.
Off-duty officers are paid directly by the vendor who hires them for security and given a bill at the end of each month by the city showing what they owe the city, Kupetz said.
“They pay it every month,” Kupetz said. “The detail coordinator issues a bill to the officer showing how much they actually owe the city.”
The issue of police working in uniform performing private security duties has been an issue in Kingston and Wilkes-Barre. In Kingston, the police chief last week accepted a paid administrative leave of absence while the practice is being reviewed.
In Wilkes-Barre, Police Chief Gerard Dessoye said this week he was investigating the circumstances of a picture sent to The Times Leader of a woman about to lick the badge of a city detective performing nighttime security duties in uniform outside the former Hardware Bar on South Main Street. The origin of the photo is unknown.
Dessoye said Wednesday he receives “quite a few requests” for detail officers every month, but was quick to note it varies during the year.
Many detail requests are pre-approved, such as WB Square Associates doing business as the Susquehanna Ale House on South Main Street, Sherman Hills and Boulevard Townhomes apartment complexes, R/C Movies 14 and McDonald’s on East Northampton Street, and Wilkes-Barre Area and Holy Redeemer basketball and football games.
Other details need approval from Dessoye, such as church bazaars, parades, the annual Fine Arts Fiesta and school dances and proms.
Given the number of recurring detail assignments, reimbursements to the city may be seen as fruitful. Dessoye said the reimbursements are handled by the city’s finance department.
Detail requests from vendors where alcohol is involved will likely receive more scrutiny, Dessoye said.
Kupetz said details are assigned by seniority.
Off-duty officers are hired as private independent security contractors and are paid an hourly wage already established under a contract. The off-duty officer has no negotiating power to earn more per hour.
A 1099 tax form is given to the off-duty officer to claim self-employment taxes at the end of the year in addition to the 10 percent that is owed to the city per detail assignment per month, Kupetz said.
Their pay does not affect their pensions nor is it counted as city time, city Municipal Affairs Manager Drew McLaughlin has said.
Ron Kamionka, a partner in WB Square Associates, said two off-duty officers are hired to provide security on Friday and Saturday nights. He said the off-duty officers not only establish a presence outside Susquehanna Ale House, but other nearby South Main Street businesses.
“With cutbacks and all, there wouldn’t be a police presence in downtown at all. It is important to us and it makes the patrons feel safe,” Kamionka said.
Kamionka and Kupetz noted the off-duty detail officers do not go inside the tavern unless an incident occurs inside that demands their presence.
“We can’t work inside (taverns),” Dessoye said. “We don’t card, we don’t work inside.”
Kamionka said detail officers are hired September through May with the summer being a slow time for the tavern.
Extra manpower for W-B
Dessoye and Kupetz said detail officers are an addition to on-duty officers with the requirement to report on-duty if called upon by the police watch commander.
“Say there are 10 guys working details on a particular night. They are available to be pulled to go on-duty,” Kupetz said. “It has happened before.”
Kupetz said officers can only work details within the city limits, explaining a request to provide security for the Meyers High School prom was denied because the event was held at a hotel in Plains Township.
“We’re not allowed to go out of the city,” Kupetz said.