- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2008

BALTIMORE | The Baltimore Police Department wants to prohibit officers from working off-duty jobs outside businesses with liquor licenses.

The move is prompted by concerns that officers are being drawn into a growing number of violent incidents, but it is troubling to the officers’ union and business owners.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld says businesses rely too much on the officers and not enough on private security.

“We got into this notion that it made more sense to hire off-duty cops because you’d have more cops all over the city, and ostensibly the city would be safer,” he said. “It’s just not so. What’s happened is that the businesses have transferred their responsibility onto the police department … and that’s not a responsibility or a liability I’m willing to assume.”

Officers are already prohibited from working inside businesses where alcohol is served. This arrangement with off-duty officers outside leaves them to handle situations already out of control, Commissioner Bealefeld said.

Businesses in the city will still be allowed to hire retired city officers and police officers from other jurisdictions. But fewer departments in the region are allowing officers to do such work.

Baltimore and Howard counties prohibit officers from moonlighting at establishments that serve alcohol. The Prince George’s County Police Department and the State Police are among agencies that allow officers to do such work after hours.

In Anne Arundel County, officers are not allowed to work in bars and taverns, but the police union, the police chief and county executive are fighting the county ethics commission to allow officers to work at restaurants with liquor licenses.

Commissioner Bealefeld said he is worried about the potential for corruption when officers are policing an establishment whose owner is paying them.

Venues that draw crowds routinely rely on uniformed officers to help keep the peace, said local concert organizer Evan Weinstein.

“I wouldn’t do it without the police there,” he said. “When you see two cop cars and cops sitting around outside, you’re less likely to start something. It absolutely creates a safer environment.”

Commissioner Bealefeld said the change is necessary to ensure that businesses take responsibility for security.

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