Rules for off-duty Natchez police officers changing
Published 12:32 am Wednesday, May 31, 2017
NATCHEZ — The rules for off-duty Natchez police officers working as security personnel at local businesses will soon change.
Interim Natchez Police Chief Shawn T. King appeared before the Natchez Board of Aldermen at a recent board meeting to request that the city create an indemnification policy to ensure the city would not be liable for any actions an off-duty officer takes while acting as security staff at a business.
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Off-duty officers are routinely employed by businesses, mainly bars, to provide nighttime security. The officers are paid by the businesses to provide the service and may only do so when they are off-duty. The officers are permitted to wear their official uniform and gear, including service weapons.
King said he believes the city could be liable in a lawsuit should someone be injured by an off-duty police officer that gives the appearance of an on-duty officer because he or she is wearing a police uniform.
King’s request was that City Attorney Bob Latham draft a policy for the board to approve.
King said he also wants the officers to wear shirts that have police written on it rather than their official uniforms.
Latham told King that a state statute already exists that permits officers to take off-duty security jobs while wearing their uniform and gear. An indemnity clause, or hold harmless clause, is incorporated into the statute, Latham said, meaning the city would not be liable for any off-duty officers’ actions.
Latham also said that state law requires the board of aldermen to approve the off-duty personnel requests, which he said would likely “create a bottleneck,” implying the volume of requests would likely not be promptly approved by the board, which meets only twice a month.
King’s comment about having the off-duty officers wear a different shirt sparked another conversation about what the officers should wear while acting as security.
Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith said she thinks it is confusing to residents when they see an off-duty officer wearing a uniform.
Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said he prefers off-duty officers acting as security staff not wearing anything indicating they are police officers, and instead wear a shirt that has “security” or “staff” on it.
By not wearing the official uniforms, the board agreed that it would not have to approve every officers’ request to work as security.
Smith said the city would likely want off-duty officers wearing their uniforms when they are working parades and similar events. Those requests, she said, could be handled on a case-by-case basis.