Cobb police officers can work any part-time job, if approved by their supervisor, with the exception of those involving pawn brokers, precious metal dealers, contracted wrecker services or employers who have a lawsuit involving the county or the state, said Cobb Police Department Spokesman Mike Bowman.
And when those part-time jobs require officers to be in uniform, they have the authority to enforce laws and make arrests, even though they aren’t on the clock, because they are acting as a representative of the state and local police.
Few jobs require officers to use their patrol cars, but when they do the county pays for the fuel cost, Bowman said. When those patrol cars are handy, officers will respond to nearby high-priority calls.
Officers are allowed to work generally no more than 70 hours in a week including time at the police department and with a secondary employer, Bowman said. More hours can be approved on a case-by-case basis.
Employers or officers could face liability
Should something go awry while working off-duty, individual officers or their employer could be found at fault.
“If we have a part-time job where we are not on the clock, our insurance coverage is on us just like it is you if you are injured while not working in the scope of your employer,” Bowman said.
Justin O’Dell, a general litigation lawyer at O’Dell and O’Neal Attorneys, says if an officer acts outside of the boundaries of his job description, the officer could be personally liable for injury.
“That’s one of the reasons it’s important for employers to have very, very, very clear job descriptions,” O’Dell said.
An officer may be hired to perform security at a business, but if that officer leaves the property and takes initiative to address another issue, like a dispute heard down the street, he may become personally liable and open himself up to a potential lawsuit.
“If he acts outside the scope of the authority and something happens, he may subject himself to personal liability,” O’Dell said.
But the lines are blurred when a county patrol car comes into the picture.
Some churches hire off-duty officers to handle heavy traffic before or after worship services. Large events may do the same. Bowman says if an officer is injured while directing traffic, the hiring company is responsible.
O’Dell isn’t so sure.
“If he has been contracted by the church, but is using a county patrol car, there could be an issue regarding county liability,” O’Dell said.
Still, there’s no one answer. Regardless of who a lawsuit is aimed at, the verdict would be up to a jury unless settled before it makes it into a courtroom. Local governments and private employers, O’Dell said, may have liability insurance to protect their coffers if faced with a lawsuit.
Extra security provides peace of mind
At Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell, two or three Cobb officers patrol the park all day while it’s open. It helps make visitors feel comfortable, said Emily Murray, spokeswoman for the theme park.
“We have a close relationship with Cobb County PD, and the off-duty officers that we utilize are a wonderful addition to our security team,” Murray said.
It’s not just large theme parks hiring officers.
Many businesses, from banks to supermarkets, hire off-duty officers, though Bowman said he didn’t have exact numbers of how many companies hire Cobb officers. Some are seeking increased security, some hope a uniformed officer is a crime deterrent and others, such as large churches, need traffic control.
Town Center at Cobb, at 400 Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw, wants the off-duty police officers to enhance its existing security system, said Jennifer Walker, spokeswoman for the mall.
“In addition to maintaining 24-hour security patrol of the interior and exterior of the mall property, our management and mall security teams have an excellent relationship with the Cobb County Police Department,” Walker said.