I recently posted an article on police details that discussed what details are and how they work. Details are paid for by individuals, businesses, or entities other than the New Orleans Police Department. Nobody works a police detail for the New Orleans Police Department. It simply does not work that way. Police details exist because sometimes people and/or businesses need security services that are solely for their benefit. Since these services only benefit a small number of people, nobody can expect the New Orleans Police Department, a municipal police department paid for by tax dollars, to perform these specialized services using personnel on the public payroll. However, these officers do benefit the larger community by supplementing publicly funded police services.
The Consent Decree
In 2012, the City of New Orleans entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice. There are 10 pages of the consent decree dedicated to police details – Section XVI – Secondary Employment System, paragraphs 332-374.
Why is this a matter of constitutional policing? It is not.
In order to be able to explain the impact of the consent decree as it relates to police details, it is important to know how it worked before the consent decree. Before the consent decree, if you had a security need to address and wanted to hire a police officer for that purpose, you would just ask a police officer that you knew. If you didn’t know anyone, you could call your district station. You would work out the details with whatever officer you contacted about the police detail.
The consent decree mandated the creation of the Office of Police Secondary Employment (OPSE). OPSE was supposed to be a function of the City of New Orleans. There would be no need for police officers to coordinate details any longer – OPSE would perform that function.
332. The Secondary Employment Coordinating Office (“Coordinating Office”) shall have sole authority to arrange, coordinate, arrange fully-auditable payment, and perform all other administrative functions related to NOPD employees’ off-duty secondary law enforcement employment (historically referred to as paid details) and shall be operated in accordance with the requirements of this Agreement.United States of America v. City of New Orleans, Consent Decree, Page 85, Paragraph 332.
The consent decree lays out how OPSE is supposed to function. Customers would call OPSE to hire detail officers. OPSE would determine how many officers were needed, what kind of supervision would be necessary, the need for police vehicles, etc. Once OPSE and the customer agree on those things and the price of the detail, OPSE would bill the customer for the police detail and post the job so that officers can sign up. The customer would pay OPSE. OPSE then pays the officers who work the detail on their city paychecks. OPSE collects a fee on every detail hour worked and is supposed to be self-funding.
Before an officer can work a paid detail, that officer has to submit a detail authorization form. The detail authorization form goes up the chain of command and has to be approved before the officer can work the detail. The purpose of the form is to make sure the officer is in good standing to work the detail and to make sure the detail itself is suitable for a uniformed NOPD officer to work.
To recap – The person or business that wants to hire a detail calls OPSE. OPSE looks into the detail and, if the detail is approved, posts the detail on the OPSE detail portal. OPSE bills the person or business who arranged the detail. Once all of the approvals are obtained, the officer works the detail. The officer is paid by the City of New Orleans on the officer’s paycheck. The paystub is not exactly clear, but the money all comes for the same place.
OPSE’s job is to handle all aspects of paid details except actually doing the work. OPSE monitors compliance with the rules and regulations governing paid details as they exist as per the consent decree. If there are problems with officers exceeding the number of hours allowed, then it is OPSE’s job to notify the officer and get the officer back in compliance.