Crime

The Dallas Police Department Is Rethinking How It Tracks Officers' Off-Duty Work

According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, overworked officers are more prone to fatigue, taking unnecessary risks, and increased liability.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, overworked officers are more prone to fatigue, taking unnecessary risks, and increased liability. iStock/DallasO75219
In recent years, Dallas Police Department officers have landed in the headlines over their presence at off-duty jobs that ended up in the news. Now, it appears the department is rethinking the rules regulating off-duty work.

A 2018 audit found shortfalls in how the DPD has kept up with the off-duty work of its officers. The audit found that officers were sometimes working the equivalent of three full-time jobs. Additionally, the audit found the department couldn’t ensure officers weren’t working at unapproved times and locations.

As a result, the department is looking into creating a separate system that can help track this work.

“The department is currently exploring and will be discussing with outside vendors the use of an off-duty management system,” Brian Martinez, a DPD spokesperson, said in an email. “The department currently tracks this information through a record management system for off-duty employment. In November of 2018, the City Auditor’s Office conducted an audit of the department’s procedures and management system used to govern and track officers working off-duty employment.”

Martinez added, “Staff will be meeting with proposed vendors to consider better oversight, accountability, and tracking of all off-duty jobs worked by officers and to correct any deficiencies as noted in the audit.”

According to the audit, studies show that allowing police to pursue off-duty work can benefit the city and its officers. The idea is that an off-duty officer’s presence can help deter crime at no direct cost to the city, and the work can help supplement their pay. Some off-duty programs are structured to reimburse the department for the use of uniforms, equipment and vehicles, which can also help with DPD’s budget.

But those benefits depend on whether the work is managed properly.

The department’s general orders establish rules for off-duty employment, but the audit found DPD officers haven’t always complied with those rules. DPD also didn’t have controls in place to manage and monitor this work or the supervisors’ approval.

“The Department continues to work with the Office of Special Events to ensure unpermitted events are identified and restricted from working." – Brian Martinez, DPD

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Unlike in other cities, DPD doesn’t have a single authority over these off-duty hours. Instead, they are managed through the department’s chain of command, according to the audit. This can contribute to some of the shortcomings. For example, this could prevent DPD from thoroughly vetting whom its officers are working for.

Officers are supposed to get their supervisors to approve their off-duty work 24 hours in advance. The audit found that 99% of the off-duty requests made between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2017, were approved by supervisors. However, 32% weren’t approved until after the off-duty work had already started. Another 16% of those requests weren’t submitted with a 24-hour notice of the work. Additionally, the audit found more than 21,000 instances where officers’ off- and on-duty assignments exceeded the amount of hours they were allowed to work in a day.

Among the auditor’s office recommendations at the time was that DPD make changes to its general orders, decrease the number of hours officers are allowed to work in a week between their on- and off-duty assignments and implement a better system of tracking it all.

The department agreed with the auditor’s recommendations and has made some of the changes since. But it has yet to roll out a new system of keeping tabs on this work. Now, DPD is looking for an entity that can help it do that.

Since the audit, some incidents have illustrated the need for better controls when it comes to officers’ off-duty work. In one case, two former DPD officers have been accused of using their positions with the department to help their off-duty employer, Alfredo Navarro Hinojosa, a local club magnate, stay out of trouble with the law. In November, Hinojosa was convicted of allowing drugs to be sold at his venues.

More recently, police officers took an off-duty assignment providing security at an unpermitted party in southern Dallas where a fight broke out and attendees began shooting. Kealon Gilmore, a 26-year-old who attended the party, was shot to death and 16 others were injured.

“The Department continues to work with the Office of Special Events to ensure unpermitted events are identified and restricted from working,” Martinez said. “Additionally, the Department has recently issued policy prohibiting officers from working unpermitted events.”

More than five months ago, the Observer requested records showing how many hours off-duty officers have worked at the party’s address between April 2, 2021, and April 2 this year. The release of this information is awaiting a decision from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

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