‘Moonlighting’ can have serious effects on police, community

 

   “Moonlighting” was a comedy about two private detectives and their police work. In real life, moonlighting is a prevalent practice among police officers that can have very serious consequences to the officers and the people they serve.
    The practice has been questioned due to two recent incidents involving police officers.
   Joseph Johnson, who has served in several law enforcement positions in the parish, was arrested Feb. 2 and charged with payroll fraud for allegedly billing both Cottonport and Bunkie police departments for the same hours of work. 
He was hired as a part-time police officer for both, and was also employed by the 12th Judicial District’s Families In  Need of Supervision program.
   Derrick Stafford and Norris Greenhouse Jr. were moonlighting as Marksville City Marshal’s deputies when they shot and killed 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and seriously wounded his father, Chris Few, following a Nov. 3 traffic stop in Marksville. They have been charged with 2nd-degree murder and attempted 2nd-degree murder in that case. Stafford was a full-time shift lieutenant with the Marksville Police Department and a part-time deputy with the Alexandria City Marshal’s Office, in addition to working for the Ward 2/Marksville City Marshal’s Office. Greenhouse was a full-time deputy with the Alexandria City Marshal’s Office and a reserve officer for the MPD in addition to his work for the Ward 2/Marksville City Marshal’s Office.
 
What is  moonlighting?
   The term “moonlighting” refers to holding one or more jobs in addition to a primary job. The word refers to the fact that those additional jobs are usually at night -- under the moon’s light.
    There are different kinds of “moonlighting” for law enforcement agencies. Usually it has been used to refer to a police officer who holds a second job as a security officer for a convenience store, department store, nightspot, etc.
   Many police departments nationwide either prohibit secondary employment or require the police officer to obtain prior approval before accepting a second job. It is expected that a police chief or governing authority would not allow a second job that would interfere with the police officer’s primary responsibility to that department or create an obvious situation where the police officer would be too fatigued to effectively serve the public.
    While police officers may have security guard or other second jobs, the moonlighting issue in Avoyelles Parish has focused on  officers working a full shift with one department and then clocking in to work a shift, or a partial shift, for another municipal police department.
Moonlighting also allows smaller police departments to save money by employing trained police officers on a part-time basis rather than having to hire and train a full-time police officer.
    The reason for moonlighting, obviously, is to earn extra money. 
   To address that need and thus short-circuit a moonlighting problem, many police departments around the country create their own “moonlighting” opportunities for their officers.
   Those opportunities include allowing police officers to work at special and sports events to provide crowd and traffic control. In those cases, officers are either paid overtime by the department or allowed to work directly for the event sponsors.
   In some cities nationwide, the practice of allowing municipal police to serve as security guards while wearing their uniforms and driving city police vehicles has raised complaints from private security companies, who allege the police officer has an unfair advantage in taking away the company’s potential clients.
  That complaint is countered by those who say having off-duty police officers in the community on second jobs puts more law enforcement on the street and helps deter crime.
Moonlighting effects
    Studies have been done on the problems caused by chronic fatigue -- problems for the police officer working those long hours and problems for his/her employers.
   Not getting enough rest and not eating properly contribute to fatigue. Fatigue can cause police officers to make poor decisions and affect their abilities to see and respond to dangerous situations.
   A national study in 2011 found the effects of sleep deprivation were similar to those of excessive drinking -- impaired speech, poor balance, impaired eye-hand coordination and falling asleep at the wheel.
   If police officers are constantly fatigued, they may not find time to unwind and enjoy their time away from their job. This builds up stress in an already stressful job.
  Another study in 2012 found fatigued officers use more sick time, have difficulty managing personal relationships, have trouble reporting to work on time and other time management issues, make mistakes on important paperwork, may sleep on duty, generate more citizen complaints for misconduct, have problems talking with supervisors or have stressful relationships with superiors, have problems being prepared to testify in court, have more accidental injuries on duty,  are more likely to take early retirement due to burnout, and are at higher risk of being seriously injured or killed due to an inability to focus or recognize danger signs.
   Those two reports also found fatigue caused impaired eye-hand coordination, increased anxiety or depression, increased substance abuse and addiction, more stomach ailments, increased reports of back pain and headaches, a higher risk of post traumatic stress disorder, more likelihood of using excessive force or other inappropriate responses to a situation and were at more risk of developing serious health risks such as diabetes or cardio-vascular disease.
    Local and national authorities agree on one thing: as long as police officers have an economic need to supplement their income, they will endanger their health -- and even public safety -- to work extra jobs to earn more money to support themselves and their families. 
    The most-often cited solution to the problem is one that elected officials don’t like to hear: Increase police officers’ pay to a level that one job -- done safely and done correctly -- provides an adequate income.
    The next most-often cited solution is one that police officers don’t like to hear: Live within their means so they do not need the extra money that moonlighting provides.

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