In a historic move hailed by bar owners and police alike, Kansas City’s Board of Police Commissioners have begun allowing off duty police officers to work at taverns and bars.
“It’s a huge win for Kansas City,” says Westport tavern owner Bill Nigro. “The police department is finally allowing taverns to hire off duty police for security. That’s never been allowed in Kansas City – at least as far back as the 1960s.
Kansas City Off Duty Coordinator Matt Masters concurs.
“It became effective last Wednesday,” Masters says. “It’s the first time to my knowledge in the history of the police department we’ve been allowed to do that.”
The reason took so long?
“It goes all of the way back to organized crime days when the Mafia was running a lot of bars and there was police corruption,” Nigro says. “The former police chief told me that as long as he was chief, off duty police will never work for nightclubs. He said that to me in front of a big meeting at City Hall in front of a bunch of city council people six or eight years back.
“Off duty police can work at restaurants or businesses that sell over 50 percent food – that’s always been the case – but the bars are the ones who need the police most. Anyway, it’s finally being allowed and I couldn’t be happier.”
“I think the biggest thing (about not allowing it earlier) was not wanting to cross that line,” Masters says. “There were some things we were concerned with, but we set up some rules and standards, so we’ll see how it goes.”
To start with taverns must hire at least three officers. Second, the officers are only to patrol outside of the tavern – out front, in back or in parking lots – unless called upon to respond to a disturbance. Third, if asked to come inside the tavern, the officers must notify the police dispatcher and the dispatcher will then send a supervisor to maintain consistency with police policies and ensure that no disturbances go unreported. And finally, all off duty police officers must be in full uniform and abide by all on-duty police rules and regulations pertaining to state law, Federal law and city ordinances.
“The big thing is they’re being paid by a private entity, but their duties and responsibilities are the same as if they were working on duty,” Masters stresses. “We think the new policy will help us more because some of the places that have (frequent) disturbances can now hire off duty officers and that will help us with manpower issues.”
“It’ll be good for the city because it will put a police presence throughout the neighborhoods,” Nigro adds. “And for stand alone clubs especially – ones that are by themselves out in the middle of nowhere – having a police car out front really sets the tone for everybody to behave. It’s a huge deterrent to crime at bars.”