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City, officers praise new extra-duty policy

William Reese Dial uses the extra cash for getaways to pricey destinations like New York City and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Tampa police Sgt. Kenny Orrill has used the money to pay off cars.

Dozens of full-time Tampa police officers, as well as retired reserve officers like Dial, work off-duty security details to pay for mortgages, private school tuitions and Christmas shopping splurges.

For more than $20 an hour and as many as 24 hours a week, they supplement their regular salary and workload by directing traffic at large sporting events and by controlling the tipsy patrons of Ybor City's assorted nightclubs.

They train their watchful eyes on possible shoplifters in grocery stores. They troll bank lobbies, acting as a deterrent for would-be robbers.

The work can boost officers' regular pay _ which ranges from $38,000 to more than $60,000 a year _ by thousands of dollars.

And now, for the first time in its 12-year history, the Tampa Police Department's Extra Duty Program is bringing in a considerable amount of money to city coffers.

An audit presented to the City Council last week shows that after a decade of operating in the red, the program last year generated $500,000 for the city's general fund.

In all, about 400 officers did $6.3-million worth of after-hours work, or 230,576 hours.

The city gets $4 of the $26 to $30 hourly wage that customers pay for extra-duty officers. Customers also pay $10 a day to cover use of the city's cruisers.

But for the first 10 years of the program, poor accounting and lenient bill-collecting practices meant officers _ and the city _ weren't getting paid. By 2000, the program had accumulated $240,000 in uncollected receipts, city records show.

Orrill, a 25-year Tampa police veteran who oversees the program, says too many businesses and groups racked up bills for extra-duty officers and then went belly up before paying the Police Department.

Now the city's accounting department oversees bill collection for the program. Businesses that start to run up a tab can't hire additional security until they pay up.

"It's like everything else in the city now _ more professional, better run," said City Council Chairwoman Linda Saul-Sena. "It sounds like it was really kind of loosey-goosey before, and now they have really made it a professional operation."

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Police officers have earned extra cash by working after hours for years. But only when the Extra Duty Program was established in 1992 did the city begin getting a portion of the hourly fee.

"Before that, people would just ask an officer they knew to work their business or their party, and they'd pay us cash," said Orrill.

He had just graduated from the police academy when he took out a three-year loan for a new 1978 Thunderbird. Orrill worked off-duty assignments guarding a bank and grocery stores, and paid off the car within a year.

Today he works about six extra hours a week doing traffic control at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"It's nice to visit with people as they come and go," he said. "It's a social thing. I'm not just there to talk about their burglaries."

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office also has an off-duty program that charges customers $26 an hour. Deputies get $23 an hour, and another $3 goes to the county to cover the cost of vehicles, uniforms and other administrative expenses.

Cpl. Todd Anthony said deputies did $5-million worth of off-duty details last year. All sworn personnel, including reserve deputies, can participate. The limit is 72 extra-duty hours a month.

Orrill said some Tampa police officers only take occasional jobs.

"Other guys, it's a regular part of their workweek," he said. "Some guys, they buy a new house, and hit it hard for a while to help out."

A recent increase in officers' pensions means about 12 percent of their pay is withheld to fill the fund, up from almost 5 percent. Officers are making up the difference by working extra-duty assignments, Orrill said.

"I pay for all my fun stuff and vacations with extra-duty work," said Dial, 55, who retired five months ago after 33 years with the department.

The married father of four earns about $2,000 a month by working 18 to 24 hours a week, at the Mercantile Bank in South Tampa and at Bucs games. As a reserve officer, he also volunteers at events such as the Gasparilla children's parade.

He prefers the bank to past assignments working bars and nightclubs, which tend to be the least desirable jobs for extra-duty officers. Those businesses usually pay $30 an hour instead of the minimum $26 because if they don't, officers don't sign up, Orrill said.

"Those are the worst," Dial said, rolling his eyes. "When people drink, they think they can whoop the world. They don't care if you're a cop with a gun."

Officers have a wide choice of assignments. Schools hire them for after-school traffic duty, and concerts and church events always need help in the parking lot.

During this month's Gasparilla festivities, homeowners will hire officers for help during big soirees. Orrill said others who live near the big parade but plan no parties will pay an officer to stand outside.

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Department leaders say officers aren't the only ones getting ahead with the Extra Duty Program.

"The key for the city is, we have more officers out there but at the expense of the private customer," said Orrill.

For example, he estimates that during Gasparilla, at least 200 extra-duty officers will join the city's 300 or so regular-duty officers. "Extra duty increases the safety for everybody, and the officer gets to make extra money to send his kid to private school."

Still, program leaders acknowledge there's room for improvement in how the program is run and how officers' extra hours are tracked.

The audit warned that a review of 26 randomly chosen patrol officers' work records found nine of them worked more regular and extra duty than the city's policy allows.

Patrol officers aren't allowed to work more than 24 extra-duty hours a week beyond their regular schedule, which consists of 11{-hour shifts four days in a row, followed by four days off.

Police officials responded by promising to keep better tabs on officers' hours worked. They'll also clarify the city policy for extra-duty time.

Dial, meanwhile, is planning his next vacation. Myrtle Beach was so much fun last year, he's going back in September.

Money won't be a problem.

_ Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at 226-3373 or svansicklersptimes.com.

Tampa police Officer Sonja Wise watches the drop-off area outside the St. Pete Times Forum before the start of the Lightning game as part of the department's extra-duty program. Wise, who works four or five games a month, is saving her extra income for retirement.

Up next:Correction

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