Are your officers covered while working off-duty?
While the answer to this question should be a simple “yes” or “no,” the reality of the issue is complicated to say the least. Not only is the reality of off-duty officer liability complex, but an expensive one as well. Every year municipalities, agencies, private employers, and the officers themselves may spend millions in litigation trying to establish if an officer is entitled to the same level of liability protection when they are on the city clock, as when they are off the city clock.
Case in point:
A police officer clocks-out after a full day and leaves the agency. They head over to work an off-duty shift at a local apartment complex. While working this off-duty job they spot an individual attempting to break into a unit, and in the process of apprehending the potential burglar the officer accidentally twists their ankle. This results in the officer sustaining an injury needing therapy and possible surgery.
How was apprehending the potential criminal any less beneficial to the city because it happened when the officer wasn’t on the clock? The officer’s end goal was protecting the community, a job they were trained by the city to do. Why shouldn’t they be covered?
The fact is, whether working a shift for the agency, or working part-time hours for a private business, officers are doing the same job; protecting the community. In fact, if an officer is involved in an incident while working off-duty, one might even point to it as proof that the officer’s presence was inherently necessary for the safety of citizens.
In theory, we may be able to easily answer these questions, but in reality the situation becomes much more complicated. The fact of the matter is that any issue involving large sums of money is going to be intensely debated.
The argument has been used that a municipality should not provide insurance or any other resources in the defense or rehabilitation of officers involved in an incident while working off-duty as they were not on official police business. Many times, this argument has been successful. Rulings in courts across the country, including a recent case in Minnesota gaining national attention, have indicated that an officer working off-duty is not acting in official police capacity and is not entitled to any level of protection from the city.
Advocates who make these arguments in court feel they are doing so for the best interest of the municipality. Those involved in law and/or the private sector know firsthand that frivolous lawsuits are a dangerous trend that seems to grow every year. Municipalities are not structured to manage the countless lawsuits which occur from on-duty incidents, let alone the additional possible incidents stemming from one of the millions of off-duty hours worked by most officers every year. Cities, large and small, just are not built to handle that level of liability. Even if an officer were making the right choice ethically, an attorney or adjuster could still argue against their protection in pursuit of the bottom line (a line that seems to be ever shrinking.) As such, it is typically the officer who ultimately bears the burden.
While this has been a hotly debated issue from the start, the rise of COVID-19 and efforts to reduce police protections has turned this debate into a firestorm (one where the officers are most likely to get burned.) As off-duty incidents continue to appear regularly in the headlines and gain national notoriety, the effect on agencies is palpable. Many agencies are underfunded, overworked, and underappreciated in the first place. Added anxiety about potential off-duty incidents creates additional stress that makes cities, agencies, officers, and the citizens they protect less safe.
Off Duty Management provides agencies with a way to circumvent this stress. ODM provides unique comprehensive management services for off-duty work that costs agencies, officers, and cities NOTHING and includes A+ rated liability insurance and full state statutory workers’ compensation.
Here’s how it works:
- Private employers securely contact ODM for job requests.
- ODM’s 24/7/365 support team fills job requests in precise accordance with the policy rules and standards laid out by the agency.
- ODM provides every tool an officer would need (scheduling, reminders, messaging, records, reporting) directly to their smartphone via our highly rated OfficerTRAK mobile app.
- Officers or agencies are paid DIRECTLY by ODM within a week whether or not ODM receives payment from the private employer.
- ODM protects officers, agencies, municipalities, AND private employers with A+ rated liability coverage and full state statutory workers’ comp.
Agencies across the nation who use ODM are usually able to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation arguments entirely.
If you are not yet an ODM partner agency we encourage you to learn more about our comprehensive solution, and in the meantime, we urge city managers and police leaders to know what liability protections you actually have in place before an incident can occur.