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Why should you care about your off-duty detail program?

By: Bill Kicklighter Published:

How often do you think about your agency’s off-duty detail program? If there haven’t been any incidents, major problems, or improprieties that you’ve been made aware of, the answer is likely “not very often.”

I get it, and I used to fall into the same trap.

But consider this: every time your officers or deputies work off-duty details, they are typically...

  • Wearing your agency’s uniform
  • Driving your agency’s patrol vehicle
  • Working under your agency’s policies
  • Operating under the authority granted by your agency and their certification
  • Providing an increased law enforcement presence in your community
  • Reducing the workload of your on-duty personnel
  • The first unit on scene if a crime or emergency occurs near their location
  • Available to immediately respond to other locations if your agency needs them
  • Falling under the umbrella of your agency’s risk management

If even just a few of those are true, you’ll likely agree that your off-duty details are a natural extension of your patrol program, and should be treated with the same level of care, concern, and oversight. They are workforce multipliers. And contrary to what some law enforcement agencies think, they aren’t operating under a different set of rules, especially in the eyes of your citizens.

The only real difference is where the funds originate to pay them for their services. On-duty personnel are being paid by taxpayer (budget) funds, while off-duty personnel are paid by a specific entity’s funds, either directly or through your agency.

Off-duty detail management companies will try to convince you that you should outsource this responsibility, and likely even try to sell you on the idea that their insurance will provide coverage that removes your agency’s liability.

As a former Chief, I would suggest that’s like selling snake oil.

I have yet to talk with an insurance provider that offers private companies the same level of coverage a law enforcement agency can purchase to cover its officers and agency. Whether it’s liability, personal injury, disability, or other insurance, private companies simply cannot provide the coverage and limits that are available from your agency’s insurance providers. You and your officers really don’t want to find that out after an incident has occurred and you need the right coverage.

So, if outsourcing your off-duty program isn’t the answer, what’s the best practice? Like many complex topics, the best course of action is often to focus on what is important. Here are 7 recommendations to help insure your program is on the right track:

  1. Recognize, and convey to your staff, that off-duty details are an integral part of your agency’s responsibility and service to your community
  2. With that responsibility, treat it with the same level of care as the rest of your patrol program, from policies, to oversight, and accountability
  3. Understand that your community can’t, and shouldn’t, go anywhere else for this service (your agency is their local law enforcement)
  4. Keep your hands on the wheel by managing the process in-house. Don’t outsource, unless your agency is simply too small to handle it
  5. Provide your staff with the best tools to manage the process fairly and efficiently, so they aren’t spending a significant amount of time handling repetitive tasks
  6. Consider adding one or more agency fees to your off-duty detail rates as a cost-recovery mechanism, to offset costs the agency incurs for vehicles, fuel, uniforms, equipment, insurance, etc.
  7. Communicate (market) your off-duty services to your community - they support your agency and will very much appreciate the services you provide, and it’s another great method of connecting with your community

A well run off-duty detail program is an excellent way to enhance your agency’s professional reputation while increasing community engagement and reducing crime.

It creates opportunities for your officers and improves employee retention. It’s a win-win-win for your agency, your community, and your personnel, and is a great way for you to separate your agency from those who haven’t improved their program.

Bill Kicklighter is the Founder and CEO of Kommander Software, Retired Chief, 9-1-1 Director, Entrepreneur, Father and Eternal Optimist. Blessed and thankful.

Please feel free to reach out if I can ever be of assistance to you or your agency or if you would like to achieve a best-practice off duty detail program.

Matthew 5:9

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