Last November, an audit of the Dallas Police Department's off-duty work policy landed with a thud. Due to lax oversight and departmental controls, the audit said, DPD put itself at risk for officers working up to 112 hours per week when off-duty law enforcement work was factored in, officers doing work that did not conform with the department's general orders and officers working at unapproved times and locations.
It took a year, but DPD is finally implementing policies to get things back under control.
Under the old off-duty employment system, DPD officers could work as many as 72 hours per week at off-duty law enforcement jobs, on top of their scheduled 40 for the department. That's three times as many off-duty hours as is recommended by the International Association of Police Chiefs.
While the audit suggested that the department cut officers' allowed off-duty hours back to 24, the police chief's number, DPD is taking smaller steps, tightening up monitoring of off-duty employment, requiring those employing off-duty officers to register with the department and limiting that employment to 40 hours per week. So officers can work the equivalent of two full-time jobs now instead of three.
"We joke about officers going from uniforms to pajamas to uniform to pajamas and so on," DPD Lt. Ricky Lewis said Monday of how things used to be.
Dallas police Chief U. Renee Hall said that it was important for her department to fix the problems identified by the audit, regardless of how many officers were carrying dangerous workloads.
"Their wellness is extremely important to us so it was a concern ... even if it was 40 out of the 3,000 officers," Hall said.
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Officers' regular jobs are tough enough even without adding off-duty gigs where they might have to break up bar fights, to use an example cited by the chief.
"The numbers were concerning in that industry standard is 24 hours over your 40," Hall said. "(Officers) are operating on 10 most of the time."
Starting in August 2020, the month the new regulations are set to go into effect, DPD will use schedule-tracking software already licensed to the city to monitor off-duty work by officers, rather than having the monitoring done by a third party. Several City Council members expressed concern that using a third party — an alternative to picking up the work in-house offered by the department — would lead to neighborhoods participating in the city's off-duty patrol program having to pay extra fees.
With that possibility out of the way, the Dallas City Council's Public Safety Committee was supportive of the proposed changes. While DPD doesn't need the council to sign off on the new hour limit, a city ordinance would be required to force employers to register with DPD.