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Vice squad commanders in Maryland working for casino

ANNAPOLIS — The captain and lieutenant who oversee the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s gambling investigations have side jobs as security guards for the developer building the casino at Arundel Mills, according to documents obtained by The Capital.

Capt. Randy Jones and Lt. Robert Adams — the officers in charge of the department’s vice unit — are among 18 county police officers on the payroll of The Cordish Cos., which will operate the state’s largest slots casino.

The after-hours security work for Cordish — which the department first authorized in May —shocked the former chairman of the county’s Ethics Commission and several law enforcement experts.

“Having people who regulate gambling working for a casino operator is just mind-boggling,” said Christopher S. Rizek, who headed the Ethics Commission from 2004 to 2008.

“Anybody working vice, narcotics or organized crime should under no circumstances work (secondary employment). It compromises the officer and it compromises the agency,” said Andrew J. Scott III, a former chief of the Boca Raton (Fla.) Police Department who now consults privately on police policies. “It just doesn’t look good.”

In an interview Friday, County Police Chief James Teare Sr. said he sees no problem with the security work. He noted that the casino is under construction and that the job at hand is protecting a parking lot.

“None of the secondary employment at the Arundel Mills construction site is a conflict of interest,” Teare said. “We have no regulatory authority over the construction site (as police officers).”

Several members of the County Council said last week they agree with Teare — or at least weren’t interested in arguing the point.

“I trust our police officers at all levels,” said Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, echoing similar comments voiced by Councilman Derek Fink, R-Pasadena.

Councilmen Jamie Benoit, D-Crownsville, and Daryl Jones, D-Severn, said they would leave any ethical questions to the Ethics Commission.

Betsy Dawson, the executive director of the commission, declined to comment on the revelations.

Attempts to reach other officers on the command staff were unsuccessful.

The apparently cozy relationship between Cordish and the county’s vice unit was revealed last week at the conclusion of a two-month investigation by The Capital into how often the department’s command staff works side jobs.

According to documents obtained by the newspaper, Teare, one major and three captains are authorized to work security for such companies as Cordish, AT&T and Baltimore Gas and Electric.

Union officials and some councilmen criticized the department’s top brass for working side jobs as security guards, particularly since the practice is almost unheard of in other jurisdictions.

“It’s unfortunate that the commanders are taking these jobs when police officers really need them to make ends meet,” said Cpl. O’Brien Atkinson, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police. He noted his membership is facing the second consecutive year of, on average, 5 percent pay cuts.

“When I think of secondary work, I think of rank-and-file officers. Not commanders,” Jones said. “I’d think we would want our top-tiered officers focusing on the (operation of) the department.”

Teare defended the department’s policy. He said there is no law or regulation on the books barring commanders from working side jobs.

“Secondary employment by all police officers is a lawful and regulated activity,” he said, noting that supervisors must sign off on all second jobs.

Through a spokesman, County Executive John R. Leopold also voiced his support for Teare and the command staff.

“The county executive has been very clear that he supports secondary employment by police officers. This applies to the entire department regardless of rank,” spokesman David Abrams said. “There are guidelines in place to review requests for secondary employment, and those guidelines are followed. … We have seen no evidence of any conflicts.”

Abrams went on to chastise Atkinson for speaking out against his bosses.

“It is unfortunate that the union president is attacking the people who have supported officers in their efforts to work secondary employment,” he said.

How many hours the commanders work for the businesses and how much they are paid is unclear.

According to Teare, the department does not track such information.

Even if the county knew how much the commanders made, it would not release those figures. Over the past two months, The Capital repeatedly requested information about the secondary work by command staff and filed a request under the state’s Public Information Act.

In response, the county eventually released several documents with the names redacted, citing the Maryland Law Enforcement Bill of Rights and the confidentiality of personnel records. On the same grounds, the county refused to release the officers’ requests for secondary employment.

An unredacted list obtained by The Capital indicates five officers above the rank of lieutenant are approved to work side jobs.

Teare, Maj. Pamela Davis, Capt. Jerald Flemings and Capt. Randy Jones have permission to work security for BGE. Flemings, Jones and Capt. Frederick Plitt can work for Cordish.

Only three other officers can work secondary for BGE.

A source inside the department who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media said the BGE and Cordish jobs are among the more lucrative positions available. He put the rate for the BGE job at $50 an hour.

As chief of police, Teare is slated to make $138,156 this year. Because of budget cuts, he will have to take 12 furlough days this year.

Davis, Flemings, Jones and Plitt make between $97,943 and $110,429. Each of them must take seven furlough days. None can earn overtime.

While declining to comment on the secondary employment of his command staff, Teare acknowledged Friday he personally worked 20 hours for BGE over Labor Day weekend. During the “midnight hours,” he guarded work sites in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Teare said BGE requested the detail at the last minute, that few officers were available and that he offered to help.

“It was a one-time event for me,” said Teare, who signed off on his own application for secondary employment. “They were unable to fill the post and I offered my services.”

According to the unredacted authorization list, several of the other commanders who requested permission to work for BGE requested it about the same time as Teare. All have permission to work for BGE until next September.

Going forward, Teare said he hopes to work secondary teaching at Anne Arundel Community College — where he has previously served as an adjunct professor. He does not plan to work more security jobs, but he did not rule out the possibility if another emergency arose.

Over the past several years, the county’s Ethics Commission has repeatedly asked the police department to rein in secondary employment by officers — particularly in bars.

The ethics commission has argued police should not work in bars when they’re responsible for enforcing liquor laws.

“To put it more bluntly, police should not be paid directly by the businesses they are supposed to be policing,” the commission said in 2007.

Lawmakers, however, disagreed. Four years ago, the council passed a law that ultimately allowed officers to work security details at restaurants, Arundel Mills mall, carnivals, bingo parlors and private businesses.

Earlier this year, the council expanded the number of permissible employers further. Officers now can work in the parking lots of bars and taverns.

“It makes sense to have police officers at these bars, especially if the bar owner wants them,” Fink said in August, shortly before the legislation was approved. “Instead of hiring Joe Schmo off the street to be their outside bouncer, it just makes sense (to hire police officers). That’s what these guys do for a living. I think they’re questioning the integrity of our police officers.”

Secondary employment is fairly common for rank-and-file police officers in Maryland and across the country.

According to records maintained by the county Police Department, 36.6 percent of the county’s 623 officers worked secondary employment in 2010.

The 228 officers worked a total of 75,264 hours for 200 different businesses – primarily as security guards, but occasionally as investigators, photographers, landscapers and coaches.

Police chiefs and their commanders usually don’t work secondary security jobs.

They might work as consultants for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies or as teachers at community colleges, but not as weekend security guards, experts said.

“Is the chief doing something wrong? No. Is he doing something unusual? Yes. … I’m not aware of any chiefs that do secondary employment like this,” said Scott, the former chief of the Boca Raton Police Department.

In his experience, it’s rare for officers above lieutenant to take after-hours security work.

“Anything beyond that (rank) I just haven’t heard of,” he said.

Law enforcement officials in Annapolis, Montgomery County, Howard County and Queen Anne’s County said their chiefs do not work secondary.

“I don’t know when he would have time to (work a second job),” said Deputy Dale Patrick, spokesman for Queen Anne’s County Sheriff Gary Hofmann. “He’s the sheriff 24 hours a day.”