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When Chicago Cops Moonlight, No One Is Watching

The shooting of Marlon Horton highlights the consequences of police officers working as private security guards.

At 11 p.m. on September 7, 2013, Chicago Police Officer Kenneth Walker went from his regular nine-hour shift to his second job as a security guard at a West Side public housing complex.

Walker had been working 16 hours straight when he saw Marlon Horton at 6:30 a.m. the next morning, trying to sleep in the apartment lobby. Horton, unarmed and apparently intoxicated, left the building and began urinating near Walker’s car. Surveillance camera video shows Walker try to kick Horton’s legs out from under him, setting off a brief confrontation. Minutes later, Walker fired a single gunshot into Horton’s chest, killing him.

The shooting highlights the potentially deadly consequences of police officers working second jobs, unregulated, as private security guards. A joint Chicago Reporter/CBS 2 investigation examined the problems that can arise when police officers moonlight.

CPD has the weakest oversight of secondary employment of any of the nation’s 50 largest local and county law enforcement agencies, according to a Chicago Reporter review of agency policies. CPD is the only one of the 50 departments that does not require its officers to get permission to work a second job. (One of the other 49, the Orange County, Florida Sheriff’s Office, requires the employer to get approval before allowing deputies to take outside work.)

The lack of oversight exposes the city to potentially costly misconduct lawsuits when things go wrong. Horton’s family has sued the city. The suit is still pending, so it remains to be seen how much, if anything, the city will pay. The average settlement in fatal police shootings from 2012 to 2015 was $2.3 million.

When confronted by CBS 2, Walker declined to comment on the shooting or the lawsuit.

“I’m very surprised that Chicago does not have a policy that requires [officers] to report and get approval for engaging in secondary employment, especially police-related secondary employment,” said Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and a former police chief in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The department has an obligation, from my perspective, to provide guidance and directions, and to know what police officers are doing.”

Two-thirds of the departments, for example, limit the number of hours an officer can work a second job in a given day or week. Most department cap an officer’s combined regular shift and second job at 16 hours per day or even less. Chicago has no such regulations. In the Horton case, a limit could have prevented Walker from working over 16 hours straight.

The Justice Department noted the lack of regulation in its report on the findings of its civil rights investigation of CPD. The report stated that “a significant amount of alleged officer misconduct” involves moonlighting and encouraged “a thorough review of the policies and accountability measures related to officers’ secondary employment.”

A plan released by CPD in March to address some of the DOJ’s findings does not mention toughening its oversight of moonlighting.

The Reporter identified at least 11 complaints of excessive force and unnecessary display of a weapon from 2014 to 2016 that appeared to involve moonlighting, based on records from the Independent Police Review Authority. The problem may be more widespread, but there is no way to tell. IPRA (which will be renamed the Civilian Office of Police Accountability this fall) does not tag or categorize whether excessive force complaints involve secondary employment. None of the 11 complaints was sustained, meaning IPRA did not find the officers at fault.

The department blames its weak oversight on a provision in the police union contracts. That provision states that officers cannot be required to disclose “income, assets, source of income” or other types of personal information.

“Any change to the secondary employment provision has to be a part of collective bargaining (negotiated) by law,” a CPD spokesman wrote in an email. The city is currently negotiating new contracts with the four unions that represent officers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

The contracts and department policy give CPD the right to restrict secondary employment for good cause. But when the Reporter filed a public records request last year for all such instances since 2011, CPD said it had no records.

Community organizations, with the backing of the City Council’s Black Caucus, are demanding changes to the contracts as part of policing reform. The organizations want to remove the ban on disclosure of second jobs, among other provisions. The unions have vowed to fight any changes.

“We are not interested in negotiating away our benefits. We want to improve them,” said Martin Preib, 2nd Vice President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “I will say that it is extraordinarily difficult to raise a family in the city without working extra jobs for the average police officer.”

After an 18-month probationary period, the lowest-ranked officers make $72,510 per year. That doesn’t include uniform and other allowances, benefits or pension contributions.

Richard Wooten, a retired CPD officer who now runs a private security company, cautioned that the department would “have morale issues” if it tried to regulate moonlighting more rigorously. He said rank-and-file officers, who typically work second jobs to send their kids to private school and college, or sometimes to pay for a messy divorce, would not take kindly to stricter oversight.

“You’re talking about trying to manage people’s life and time outside of the job,” said Wooten, a one-time 6th Ward aldermanic candidate. “And it’s going to be very difficult to do.”

A Moonlighting Network

Nationally, as many as 40 percent of officers moonlight in some capacity, a recent survey of 162 law enforcement agencies suggests. That could mean as many as 300,000 officers working secondary jobs in a given year, putting in up to 43 million hours of work for private employers.

Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who conducted the survey and studies police regulations, recalled working occasionally at a local nightclub when he was an officer in Tallahassee, Florida. Other Tallahassee officers did too.

“I can’t think of any officer who didn’t moonlight at some point,” Stoughton said.

Interviews with retired Chicago officers reveal that moonlighting is widespread and CPD could easily track it.

Most officers hear about off-duty security jobs through word of mouth, and many of the security companies are owned by current or former CPD officers. Absent that, dozens of online job postings advertise private security work specifically for off-duty cops, in schools and apartment complexes, at Chicago Bears games and the Lollapalooza music festival. Some security companies even post job openings on bulletin boards in police stations.

When an officer wants to work as a private security guard, a supervisor has to sign a form verifying that he is a sworn peace officer. (The form exempts police officers from the state’s licensing and training regulations for private security guards.)

“The department knows that officers are working [security] because, for the most part, they have to sign off on certain documents that have to be maintained by security agencies,” said Wooten.

But neither the city nor the state track or collect the forms. The lax oversight makes it difficult to enforce CPD’s minimal regulations on secondary employment.

For example, CPD prohibits moonlighting at bars or liquor stores, but interviews with former cops, court records, and citizen complaints suggest that officers do so anyway. The department has not disciplined any officer for violating that ban since at least 2010, records from the department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs show. Eighteen of the 30 moonlighting investigations by Internal Affairs from 2010 to 2016 stemmed from allegations that officers were working while on medical leave. Twelve stemmed from various other allegations, such as working as an extra for the NBC drama “Chicago Fire” during a regular CPD shift.

“[CPD’s] take on secondary employment is they choose who they want to go after,” said Ronald Forgue, a retired CPD lieutenant. (Forgue has a pending lawsuit against CPD, alleging harassment and retaliation for reporting misconduct.)

CPD’s lack of oversight jeopardizes its plan to professionalize by earning recognition from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the leading accrediting body. The commission mandates that police departments require sworn officers to get permission before taking second jobs where “the actual or potential use of law enforcement powers is anticipated.”

“The logic is if there’s something bad that happens, there’s going to be a lawsuit and the lawsuit is going to point back to the police department,” said Dan Shaw, CALEA’s program manager for the Great Lakes Region, which includes Chicago. “So they need to know what’s happening.”

Taxpayers on the Hook

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is among those law enforcement agencies that take steps to limit potential financial liability and conflict of interest problems stemming from moonlighting. The sheriff’s office requires private security companies who want to employ deputies or correctional officers to sign an indemnification agreement that lets the county off the hook if anything goes wrong.

“We recognize that many of our officers wish to work secondary employment, and lots of them in security-related fields,” said Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Sheriff Tom Dart. “But we balance that with making sure that we’re not having people in positions that would jeopardize the office or otherwise conflict with our mission and that we’re protecting the taxpayers of the county.”

Because CPD takes no steps to limit liability, city lawyers can end up defending officers for misconduct that happened while they were working second jobs. At least six lawsuits have been filed against officers who were working off-duty since 2011; two of them, including the Horton shooting, are still pending. The city has defended the officers in four of the cases, costing taxpayers more than $100,000 so far.

Jarrod Horton holds the poster his family used in the first anniversary memorial service for his brother Marlon, who was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer working as a security guard in 2013. “It’s something we are still recovering from,” he says.

Marlon Horton’s brother, Jarrod Horton, filed a federal lawsuit against Walker, the city, the private security company that Walker worked for, the private management company that oversees the apartment complex and the Chicago Housing Authority, which owns the property. Two city lawyers are defending Walker, and the city has paid an additional $80,000 so far for an outside attorney to assist them.

The city is stuck defending Walker because of a contradiction between the department’s secondary employment policy and the city’s obligation to indemnify police.

CPD policy prohibits officers from “representing themselves as a Chicago Police Officer” while working a second job. That includes saying “I’m a police officer” or showing a badge. Walker testified to IPRA that he did both, violating department rules. But those actions also gave him the legal and financial protection of the city, under a state law that requires the city to indemnify an officer if he or she is “engaged in the performance of his or her duties as a police officer.”

“In the Horton case … the officer was attempting to arrest the decedent when he discharged his weapon,” a spokesman for the city’s law department wrote in an email. “As his intent was to place the decedent under arrest, he was likely to be found to be acting in the scope of his employment as a CPD officer.”

Meanwhile, because CPD doesn’t keep tabs on where or when its officers moonlight, the department did not know that the private security company Walker was working for, Maverick Security, did not provide him with intermediary weapons, like a Taser or pepper spray, or even handcuffs. The lack of handcuffs calls into question Walker’s assertion that he was trying to arrest Horton.

“Shouldn’t the city, if they’re going to be liable for [an officer’s] actions, be sure that they are sending them to companies that are reputable, that give them proper training and proper intermediary weapons?” said Jeffrey Granich, the attorney for Marlon Horton’s family.

In November 2013, two months after Walker shot Horton, another off-duty officer working for Maverick allegedly punched a 17-year-old girl twice in the face during a confrontation at the Altgeld Gardens public housing complex on the far south side. The city settled a lawsuit in that case for $12,000 in March.

In another lawsuit, taxpayers could end up paying $300,000. In this case, the officer, Hillel Watkins, was working as a security guard at a bar, immediately before his regular shift, and apparently not paying taxes on the extra income — all violations of department policy.

The incident happened on July 4, 2013, at Pier 31 on 31st Street Beach. Watkins confronted 24-year-old Kasandra Bellamy as she tried to use the men’s bathroom because the line for the women’s room was too long.

Watkins, a 6-foot, 6-inch, 245-pound former college basketball player, forcefully pushed Bellamy against the bathroom wall and threw her to the ground, according to the lawsuit. He claimed in a deposition that Bellamy, who is a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter, attacked him first by putting her hands around his neck. But other men in the bathroom apparently saw Watkins as the aggressor and tried to pull him off of the young woman, according to the officer’s deposition.

Neither Watkins nor Bellamy responded to requests for an interview.

Last July, a jury found Watkins liable for excessive force and awarded Bellamy $17,000.

Like Walker, Watkins said he flashed his badge and announced himself as a police officer, so the city represented him in court and will have to pay up to $298,000 in fees for Bellamy’s attorney (the city wants the fees reduced to $96,500). Watkins was supposed to pay $8,000 of the jury verdict himself, but has not, according to Bellamy’s attorney. The judge has ordered the city to garnish Watkins’ wages.

Neither Watkins nor Walker has been disciplined, and both are still on the police force.

Nearly two years after Walker killed Marlon Horton, IPRA said the shooting was within policy.

Jarrod Horton disagrees, and he still wonders why Walker was working that night in the first place.

“If [the building] had a police officer in addition to regular security, it’s because they expect those guys to have a level of professionalism,” he said. “But the fact that he failed to exhibit that makes you [think], what’s the point of having him there?”

He hopes the lawsuit will force the city to pay more attention to officers when they work as private security guards.

“There’s no dollar amount that can bring a life back,” Horton said. “Hopefully it can cause the police department to do something differently to try to prevent these types of things from happening in the future.”

The Chicago Reporter is a non-profit investigative news organization that focuses on race, poverty and income inequality.

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