Citing concerns over liability and potential for abuse, Mesa officials have prohibited police employees from accepting off-duty consulting jobs with other law enforcement agencies.
Officers are still allowed to work as contractors for private firms, such as department stores, hotels and movie theaters.
But other agencies requesting training from Mesa officers now must go through the department, rather than approach the employees themselves. The clarification to existing policy was issued by interim Police Chief Greg Fowler on Feb. 6.
The policy change came after Buckeye Police Chief Dan Saban hired a handful of Mesa officers and civilian employees for consulting work. According to contracts provided by Saban, these consultants received as much as $110 per hour to train Buckeye employees in SWAT procedures, asset forfeiture and proper handling of property and evidence.
But Mesa officials worried these off-duty jobs might leave the city open to liability. For example, they said that if somebody were to sue Buckeye because of its SWAT unit’s actions, Buckeye officials might implicate the Mesa officer for providing inadequate training.
That could put Mesa in a position of defending itself for what happened in another city.
“We’re not saying we won’t provide (training),” Mesa City Manager Chris Brady said. “But we can’t have individuals doing this freelance without protection from the city.”
Another reason for the change, officials said, was concern that employees might be tempted to do outside work while on Mesa’s clock.
“That could become grounds for termination,” said Bryan Soller, president of the Mesa Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 9.
Saban said he understood the reasoning but was disappointed he never received an explanation from Fowler.
“To lose that option overnight, it was quite a setback,” said Saban, who worked as a Mesa officer for 25 years before taking the Buckeye job.