LAFAYETTE, La. — City police officers have stopped taking off-duty work at bars – part of a larger plan to address security issues at hotspots for nightlife.
The ban on off-duty security work went into effect during the weekend, Police Chief Jim Craft said Monday.
The move comes while city-parish government is negotiating with bar owners to institute a monthly fee to pay for patrols in the downtown area and along McKinley and Simcoe streets.
"In the meantime, we have stopped the practice of having businesses pay police officers directly," Craft said.
Instead, the department will decide where to deploy officers and will pay those officers out of the overtime budget, which has been strained in recent years by an increasing need to beef up security for a growing night scene.
Craft said the change addresses liability issues and also avoids situations in which officers answer to a private business as an employer.
"We want those folks to be under the supervision of the Lafayette Police Department," Craft said.
As for the mounting overtime bills, the city hopes the security fees under negotiation will cover the cost of the increased presence of law enforcement.
A draft of the ordinance calls for mandatory monthly fees ranging from $250 to $2,000, depending on the size of the bar.
Bar owners are receptive to the fees but are seeking slight changes in the ordinance before it comes up for final adoption, said attorney Charles Rush, who is representing a group of bar owners who would be affected.
Many bar owners already pay for private security, so the new arrangement would essentially shift that payment to the city in return for special police details.
"They are already doing it anyway," Rush said.
Police officers would not work inside bars. The Police Department banned officers from working off-duty inside of bars in 2006.
The fees would likely be levied on all bars and some restaurants open past midnight in downtown, as well as the Simcoe Street area and the McKinley Street area near the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Negotiations have also touched on assessing the security fee to some businesses outside of three designated areas.
The Police Department has been absorbing the overtime cost for the special security details. The department went to the council in August for an extra $110,000 for overtime pay through the end of October.
The council is expected to take up the security issue before the end of year.