New York 1 News

April 18, 2003

Rally at Ground Zero      

Councilman Proposes Letting NYPD Officers Moonlight As Security Guards Outside Bars

The number of officers in the Police Department may be going down due to budget cuts, but you could soon be seeing more of them on patrol outside bars. NY1’s Andrew Siff filed the following story.

It would still be the bouncer's job to decide who gets past the velvet rope. But when it comes to crowd control on the sidewalk, many club owners want police officers to do the heavy lifting.

City Councilman David Yassky on Thursday proposed an exemption to an old city law banning officers from working inside or outside establishments associated with the sale of alcohol. The exemption, if enacted, would mean that off-duty officers would be allowed to patrol the streets around bars and restaurants while in uniform.

Right now, police officers are allowed to moonlight as security guards, but not for drinking establishments and only in civilian clothes.

Yassky said the weekend death of bouncer Dana Blake on the Lower East Side started him wondering what will happen when the city's new smoking ban combined with warmer weather creates an indoor-outdoor crowd control challenge.

“The big benefit is to the neighborhoods that surround bars and nightclubs,” said the councilman. ”I am very concerned that as spring and summer comes, these neighborhoods are going to be inundated with patrons who leave to smoke, then walk away and make noise and do a lot of disorderly things on the streets."

Others said it's a good way to get more police in uniform at a time when the department is downsizing through attrition.

Critics worry about liability. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association is backing the bill, pointing out that hundreds of officers already earn extra paychecks at places like Yankee Stadium doing private security.

"A lot of those guys worked in nightclubs before they're police officers, they don't get agitated when people come after them, that's what they do – they’d be good at it,” said Bob Zink of the PBA. “Would they do it? I would think, yes."

An NYPD spokesman said Thursday, "Police officers are currently restricted from working for establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. We will take today's proposal under review."

Club owners at places like Lotus in Manghattan said long before the recent incident involving a bouncer and long before the smoking ban, they had complained for years — trying to get police protection outside their nightclubs.

“Our concern has always been neighborhood safety and neighborhood quiet,” said David Rabin of the New York Nightlife Association, which supports the proposal. “We’re trying to get along with our neighbors, and we’ve always felt that having an officer in uniform patrolling our streets would eradicate 90 percent of the complaints about nightlife, which are almost always about external noise.”

The club owners said their focus is on a small group of bar hoppers who cause trouble.

"Ten percent of the people whose attitude is ‘You're not a cop, I don't have to listen to you,” Rabin said.

If all this becomes reality, police could earn $27 an hour working outside city nightclubs. The proposal calls for officers to work at bars outside their home precincts to avoid any appearance of corruption.

--Andrew Siff

POLL QUESTION

Do you think police officers should be available to provide security at bars? Let us know by taking our NY1 Poll.

See a snapshot of the poll, below, taken on April 23, at 4:30 PM.

Following the stabbing death of a bouncer on the Lower East Side last week, a member of city council has proposed a law that would allow off-duty NYPD police officers to patrol drinking establishments. Current law prohibits police officers from moonlighting for establishments that serve alcohol due to concerns about liability, but NY1 wants to know what you think:

Should off-duty NPYD officers be available to provide security at clubs and bars?

Yes, it would increase safety.
825
73%
No, there would be liability issues.
293
26%
Total votes:
1118
100%