Off Duty Cops & traffic?

Ok… here’s my question:

Do off-duty law enforcement officers who are directing traffic for some establishment have any actual power to make you stop your car?

I'm curious, because there's a church here in DFW whose hired police goons will stop 1 car on a through street in order to let one car go ahead of it. And often enough on Sunday mornings, I'm that one car.

This seems like a perversion of the idea- the idea is to reduce congestion & let your people out into traffic. But when businesses like grocery stores(Tom Thumb @ Greenville &  Lovers) have hired goons stop traffic for customers, it really starts to chap my ass.

Anyone know the legality of this? Anyone know if I have to pay any attention at all to these people? Anyone know if I can hire my own goon to ride around with me & stop traffic at my whim?

That is a great question! My employee hires off-duty police officers to stop traffic at the intersection of the street every day between 4:00 and 6:00 pm. Most of the time, I feel like the President of the United States because I am the only one leaving and between five and ten cars have to stop to let me out. I am thinking about hiring these guys to show up at my house at 7:00 am to ensure that I also make it safely out of my driveway. Isn’t America great!

Ooops. That should read “my employer” and not “my employee”.

A police officer is a police officer is a police officer. On
“duty” or not.

This is a great question – something I’ve wondered myself.

Asmodeus: I think we all accept that fact, but what the OP is getting at is that the police officer is using their powers under contract for a private organization and function. It has nothing to do with law enforcement or keeping the peace or crowd control (the justification for hiring officers patrol fairgrounds, for example). A private organization is leveraging police powers at a fee for private purposes. What’s up with that?

Of course, now that I think about it, there’s ample precedent. Hollywood, for example, hires cops all the time to close freeways, establish temporary no-parking zones, and so on, for movie location shoots. Doesn’t answer the question about the legality of a non-public group paying to rent a badge-carrying officer for non-law-enforcement purposes, but, well, there it is.

Please accept this bonus word “to” as a means of making my parenthetical comment above sound more coherent. :rolleyes:

Yes, he has all the same powers as if he were on duty. Same when they excorting funeral persessions. IF you do not get out of the percession when he tells you, you can be given a ticket. When cops are working off duty at football games or at movie theatres or whatever, they are COPS. Period. They have they same powers, responsibilities and limitations that they do anywhere else.
Also, cops are not the only people who can control traffic. Firemen, EMS people, construction workers, and even normal people do this all the time. Though a construction worker cannot ticket you for not obeying, if a cop sees you disobeying a contruction worker telling you to stop, you can be given a ticket. Same with a private citizen who decides to direct traffic around a wreck or something before the cops get there. Cars must obey them!

I was always under the distinct impression that the obligation and authority only extended as far as stopping crimes when they were off-duty.

Seems to me that if they go off and whore themselves out to some private concern such as a grocery store or church for traffic control or something like that, then they’re still obligated to stop any law-breaking, but they aren’t the law unto themselves at that point for things like traffic control, simply because any traffic control type activity done while on-duty is done as part of his job, and disobeying him is somehow obstructing him, while when he’s off duty, you’re just obstructing the cash that’s going into his wallet.

Late this past Saturday night, I went on an ambulance call to a Rave that was held in a very old winery ( stupid planning if you ask me…). Many injuries, lots of Ecstasy, etc. We lit flares and directed traffic until we were needed to transport victims. The State Police didn’t instruct us to do so, we simply saw the need, and did so.

Cartooniverse

**and disobeying him is somehow obstructing him, while when he’s off duty, you’re just obstructing the cash that’s going into his wallet. and disobeying him is somehow obstructing him, while when he’s off duty, you’re just obstructing the cash that’s going into his wallet. **Bump, well we are getting into two things now. There is a difference between what he CAN do and what he WILL do. Obviously, he will not go write someone a ticket while he is directing traffic because then he would have to leave what he was doing. You would have to do something very bad for him to stop directing traffic and leave that area and take the risk of people crashing into each other while he is gone just to write you a ticket. But he COULD.
Also, for cops at movies and games and such. Look, they are there off duty. It is an easy 20 dollars and hour and they really don’t want to work to hard for it. Afterall, it IS a day off. Though they can do anything that they could on duty, they (well most) just try to relax and stand around all night. They will usually ignore the little things.

The money has no relevance here. The churches around here contract for off-duty officers every sunday. They have to pay the officers 20 dollars and hour, but the officers never take it. So technically they are working for the church for free. So now they are off duty, and not even getting paid. Do you think that they now have NO power? Of course not. They are always a police officer no matter what.

**Seems to me that if they go off and whore themselves out to some private concern such as a grocery store or church for traffic control or something like that…**Whore around? :slight_smile:
The officers (at least around here) are not aloud to freelance. They cannot just advertise their services and negotiate a price. If a person wants off-duty service, he or she calls the police department and signs a contract. The job assignment gets posted in the department and the officers get to sign up for it. Many jobs go unfilled. No cops want the off-duty job at the shit recycling plany I guess. The person wanting the cop agrees to pay $20 and hour to the cop and $2 and hour to the department. Always! this is not negotioated. The fact that they pay the officer directly does mean he is relly working for them. This just prevents the need for the person to pay the department $22 dollars and hour, and the department turn around and pay $20 and hour to the cop. Unnecessary paperwork and check writing.
The actual contract is with the department though, and this is who the officer is working for.

Ah… now it’s explained more clearly.

I was under the impression that off-duty cops put out their shingle & pretty much could do whatever they wanted as far as this type of work is concerned.

Still though, the part I don’t like is the implication that off-duty cops pretty much have the ability to be judge & jury when off-duty.

I mean, if they tell you to stop for a company’s entrance when they’re off-duty, I’m still hazy as to how they can legally write you a ticket. They’re not enforcing any laws, so you’re not obstructing that, and they’re not on-duty so you’re not interfering with the performance of their duties. So what can they ticket you for?

A little off topic… but answering the question of whether a cop can and will write tickets when off duty the answer most certainly is yes. A buddy of mine who is none-too-patient on his motorcycle was using the bicycle lane to cut around cars during rush hour when traffic was moving far too slow for his tastes.

When he got up to the light, a guy in regular street clothes in a regular car (off-duty cop) flashed his badge, told him to pull over, and issued him a moving violation from his ticket book that he happened to have with him.

A cop is always on duty. They are only paid for a certain number of hours. Often they have their gun with them off duty too.

Shucks, you can write a ticket yourself in the USA.

I once got stoned with a D.E.A. agent while ‘off’ duty. Bizarre experience. It was back in my baked days. The guy was a bit out-there to begin with, but I still wondered what this meant to his code of conduct.

Since I, (I’m a run of the mill civilian) and he, was off-duty, did he have any obligation to arrest me for the sake of drug enforcement? Could I have arrested him?

::hasty subject change::

I knew alot of the cops where I grew up. A friendly bunch. They would smile when I mentioned we had fireworks and shot them off in the summer (Fireworks are illegal in Minnesota). Some of them would confiscate fireworks from others and bring them home for their kids. What kind of code or ethics are they breaking there?

Even more off topic, but wondering, when cops or troopers drive down the freeway, off-duty and in their own car, if someone passes you at, say 80mph in a 55mph zone, do you also have the obligation to stop that person on your own time?

I’ve never seen it done but think that when your on-duty your obviously going to stop them, when your off, you let most things slide.

OK Bear, I have a question for you:

If an officer is OFF DUTY, not employed by anyone - say it’s a weekend, night, vacation, whatever - why do they still think they can violate firearms laws?

I asked a deputy in JC KS who I noticed had his concealed sidearm under his jacket at a church picnic. He said “I’m allowed to carry this at all times, concealed or not, and even if I wasn’t who’s going to do anything about it?” He said it in a polite manner, so I showed him the Kansas statute the next day that specified “in the performance of their duties” as the only reason for him being able to carry a concealed weapon. Period. His reaction? “So?” We’re still friends.

So my question to you is this - when an officer is off duty completely, don’t the same laws and regulations apply to them, unless specific exemption is legally codified?

We had a recent incident in KCMO here, where an off duty officer stopped a robbery at a grocery store by taking his concealed weapon and shooting the suspect. He was a brave man, who potentially saved many lives and brought a career criminal down - I salute him.

But then - as noble and good as he was, I don’t want to cast mud on him - he was breaking the law, according to MO law and KCMO law as I read it. Should this be so?

I think there is a downside for the officers as well - if officers are expected to always be mentally “on duty”, I mean my God - that’s asking a bit too much of them isn’t it? Don’t they need a break as regular civilians, to remove the stress and constant “edge” of being on duty?

The same can be said of off duty officers I know who speed all the time, yet happily give tickets to speeders the next day.

After thinking some, if I had my way, some police reform would be as follows:

  1. Officers would receive very large pay increases to compensate them for the intense risk they go through - say $125,000 or more a year. With extensive vacation (say 6 weeks) and mandatory, paid training on a regular basis in law, community relations, foreign languages of the community (and sign language), technology and technology crimes. Entrance exams would be much tougher.

But…

  1. Officers would also be held to be the legal standard of behavior for the community, with NO exceptions - speeding 56 in a 55 when not on an emergency, they get a ticket. Carrying a concealed weapon off duty, they get a felony charge. No free rides, no shortchanges when off duty. When off duty, they must be treated as any other person - no exceptions.

I’d like an opinion on this second idea - is my view really off base?

I mean no disrespect for your profession BTW.

Una

If an officer is OFF DUTY, not employed by anyone - say it’s a weekend, night, vacation, whatever - why do they still think they can violate firearms laws… “in the performance of their duties” as the only reason for him being able to carry a concealed weapon
It may be different up there. Here the statutes are clear: Certified Officers, Deputies, Probaion/Parole officers, etc are exempt from the the concealed weapon laws. Private citizens may carry concealed firearms too, but they need to get a CCW Permit from the state. Officers do not need this permit, but their ability to carry a firearm is limited by the rules of their department. For example, Tampa Police Officers are only allowed to carry 9mm pistols (this is a department policy, not a law). Off duty, they must only carry a 9mm. If they want to carry some other firearm, they get a CCW like everyone else. Many of them do this. The Sheriff’s Office here, however, allows their deputies to carry anything they want.

Also, though the law seems obvious to you… there may be case law in JC KS that has determined an officer “is always on duty” therefore it is ok for them to carry off duty. Sorry but legally, I can only speak for Florida.

**? Don’t they need a break as regular civilians, to remove the stress and constant “edge” of being on duty? **Now you can see why the suicide rate among officers is so high.
**The same can be said of off duty officers I know who speed all the time, yet happily give tickets to speeders the next day. ** That is why I wont write them. I am not a hypocrite. I also know some strict traffic deputies who write many tickets and never speed. But YES there are the speeders who write speeding tickets.

I’d like an opinion on this second idea - is my view really off baseI like your first idea… more money :slight_smile:
However, it is the responsibility of the city/county to provide protection to its citizens. The more off duty cops you have carrying guns and badges, the safer the citizens will be. Some departments REQUIRE their officers to be armed off duty.

**Since I, (I’m a run of the mill civilian) and he, was off-duty, did he have any obligation to arrest me for the sake of drug enforcement? Could I have arrested him?**Obligated? No. He gets to use discretion. The only time an officer HAS to arrest you, is if you have a warrant. The bastard should not have been getting stoned though, but that is another topic. And YES, technically if he was smoking crack or something other than pot (because it would be a felony) you could have performed a citizen’s arrest and detained him for the cops to come pick him up. But you would not do that to your pal would you?

**Even more off topic, but wondering, when cops or troopers drive down the freeway, off-duty and in their own car, if someone passes you at, say 80mph in a 55mph zone, do you also have the obligation to stop that person on your own time? ** Obligated? Hell no. I do not even see how it would be possible to stop the other car. Think about it, the police department does not want citizens pulling over for private vehicles, that is not safe at all. You will have criminals pulling people over and robbing them.
Around here, even an ON DUTY officer in an unmarked car would not pull you over for a traffic violation. Only marked vehicles!

**I’ve never seen it done but think that when your on-duty your obviously going to stop them, when your off, you let most things slide.**Exactly!

Still though, the part I don’t like is the implication that off-duty cops pretty much have the ability to be judge & jury when off-duty
They don’t! They still have the same ‘limitations’ they do while on duty. If they write you a ticket, you can take it to court!

I mean, if they tell you to stop for a company’s entrance when they’re off-duty, I’m still hazy as to how they can legally write you a ticket
Ok, I think I see what you are getting at. If you are on private property at the time, then the officer cannot write you a ticket. I could build a traffic light on my own land somewhere and run it all day long without getting a ticket :slight_smile: . But if he is directing traffic on the public road outside the entrance to stop cars and let the church people out, he can (but wont for reasons I mentioned before) write you a ticket.
He can always say that he was directed traffic for the “safety of the public” “within his authority”. Then if you disobey him and “interfere with his duties” he can even arrest you for Resisting an Officer.
OK… did I miss anything?? Let me know!!

I think the real issue here is not whether the cop is on or off duty, it is whether the cop is acting in the communities interest or acting in the interests of the guy paying the bill. If you own a store and hire a cop to just hang around, keep his eyes open, and be well positioned to act if someone tries to rob you, then i don’t see how there can be any reasonable objection.
But stopping traffic on a main street so the guy who pays the tab doesn’t have to wait for a light/break in traffic isn’t necessarilly in the communities interest. In this case, i do have a problem with it.
I’m making decent money these days, perhaps next friday night i should hire a cop to give me a police escort as i go bar hopping with my friends. Having a cop rush ahead and stop traffic at the intersections ( so i don’t have to stop and wait; tsk! thats for the peons of the world ) doesn’t seem fundamentally different than what the OP described ( and i have seen similar instances where 2 lanes of heavy traffic were blocked by a rent-a-cop as soon as a car started leaving a parking lot). You know, If i have enough perks for my cop detail, maybe they would be willing to do some selective enforcement. There is a real asshole at work, maybe i’ld like my cops to tail him all day and write citations for any infraction what-so-ever (after all, they can do that when off-duty). Boy! who’ld have ever thought hiring some cops could be so fun!
-Luckie

Yep. This happens. It happened to a friend of mine last April. The thing is, we (I was in the car too) were part of the persession! The cop motioned for us to pull over, out of the way of the rest of the persession. Naturally, we didn’t.

After the burial ceremony, there was a “party” at the church where the funeral had taken place. With all the traffic and everything, the cop came back when everyone left the church. This time, he nailed us. We explained (very politely, under the circumstances) that the deceased was a very good friend of ours and we had belonged in the persession. Did he apologize and let us on our way? Nope. In fact, he started to write out a ticket and tell us how what we were doing was wrong, blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t until the deceased’s mother saw us and told the cop that we weren’t lying that he let us go. Did he apologize? No.

That’s just wrong. Anyway, Bear, how do you determine who belongs in a funeral persession and who doesn’t? What are you “supposed” to do in a situation like mine? Couldn’t he have, at the very least, apologized? And are all cops harder/less open minded/more suspicious when it comes to “punk teenagers”?

[side note to CnoteChris] Minnesota, eh? There are a lot more of us here than I’d imagined. [/side note to CnoteChris]

In CA, at least, an unmarked car cannot give a valid ticket for an “infraction”, eg speeding. But they can for a misdomeaner, ie Drunk driving.

And the question of what the responsibilities & rights are of an off-duty cop who is working in uniform is debated. Clearly, in the case of a “clear & present danger” he turns 100% cop. But I doubt if his authority would extend to infractions.