April 30, 2003

Off-Duty Officers Could Wear
Uniforms on Guard Work

Staff Reporter of the Sun

Off-duty police officers would be allowed to wear their uniforms when they moonlight as security guards outside the city’s bars and nightclubs, under a bill to be introduced in the City Council next week.

City Councilman David Yassky’s bill comes in the wake of last weekend’s fatal stabbing of Guernica bouncer Dana "Shazam" Blake, who was killed as he was trying to enforce the new smoking ban.

Mr. Yassky said the smoking ban would lead to more noise and violence in the streets — especially as summer draws closer — and he said having a uniformed officer working security would keep puffing patrons in order and protect the city’s neighborhoods.

     IN UNIFORM Even while moonlighting?
  IN UNIFORM Even while moonlighting?

"The recognized and respected uniform of the NYPD will be an especially powerful deterrent to crime, disorderly behavior, and noise," Mr.Yassky said."If there is a uniformed police officer, that guarantees you’re going to have order, you’re going to have safety."

In 1998, the Police Department started the "paid detail unit," a program that allows police officers to perform off-duty uniformed security work.

Vendors that participate in the program include Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, Chelsea Piers, Macy’s, the New York Times, and the New York Stock Exchange.

Since the start of the paid detail unit, the Police Department has said its officers can’t do security outside of bars, citing the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which forbids policemen from being associated with alcohol sales.

A spokesman for the Police Department, Walter Burnes, said there’s no restriction keeping off-duty out-ofuniform officers from doing security.

Mr. Yassky said uniformed officers should be allowed to work outside bars. He said they wouldn’t be doling out booze for cash — they’d be keeping New Yorkers safe.

NYPD spokesman Michael O’Looney said the department would take the proposal "under review," but he noted that officers "are currently restricted from working for establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages."

Other cities, including Miami, Boston, and Houston allow police officers to serve as bouncers, the president of the New York Nightlife Association, David Rabin, said.

Mr. Rabin, who owns Lotus and Union Bar, said letting nightclubs and bars pay off-duty officers to do security would "keep noise down in the neighborhood" and "increase safety."

Vendors pay $30 an hour to hire an officer from the paid detail unit.

Mr. Rabin said on an ordinary Saturday night, he hires 10 security guards, but he said he’d hire one New York City police officer since the presence of a uniformed police officer goes a lot further than that of an ordinary civilian bouncer.

"I think that for the vast majority of the public, having an officer there would change the way they might behave," he said.