Special events office channels millions in off-duty Pittsburgh police pay

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Every year, Pittsburgh police officers make millions in extra income by working off-duty security jobs for private companies. The jobs are set up through the police bureau's special events office, which gives officers the opportunity to sign up for the extra work through a website.

But just how large is this extracurricular enterprise?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has obtained documents that originated with the special events office that list invoices sent to businesses from 2009 to 2012 that provide a glimpse into the scope of the operation and to what kind of businesses are employing police officers.

In 2012, Pittsburgh police officers made a minimum of $6.1 million through secondary employment opportunities, but because they're permitted to be paid directly by businesses, the actual amount could be millions higher. Plenty of businesses -- from bars to schools to sports venues -- pay officers directly, giving the city no sense of how much officers are making off-books.

PG graphic: Off-duty pay
(Click image for larger version)

The special events office has been the subject of heavy scrutiny recently, with allegations of a so-called "detail mafia" that alerted officers when the best jobs were posted. The office also has been the subject of a federal investigation and, the Post-Gazette has learned, a check from University of Pittsburgh that was supposed to be deposited through the office instead went to an outside account that is the subject of the same investigation. Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said federal authorities are investigating allegations of misappropriation.

In all, the invoices indicate the city's approximately 900 police officers worked more than 200,000 hours on private security jobs in 2012.

The city also recouped around $792,000 through a surcharge of $3.85 per officer per hour that year, a fee intended to cover legal fees, equipment damage and worker's compensation claims. Instead, it's being accounted for in a line item that pays officers' overtime and secondary employment wages.

And who employs officers as security guards? Hundreds of businesses -- including strip clubs, bars, social organizations, high schools and churches -- and dozens of events. The biggest employers included sports venues, construction companies and natural gas companies.

neigh_city

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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