The Apple store downtown has real, uniformed police officers acting as security. I was told these are off-duty officers moonlighting for extra cash. But in uniform? Are they acting as cops or private contractors? Can anybody rent one? —iWonder
Jeez, iWonder, if I didn't know better, I'd think you were suggesting the rich and powerful enjoy state-granted privileges that the rest of us have to do without.
First, the facts: It is perfectly legal for private entities to hire uniformed off-duty cops to act as security officers, nightclub bouncers, etc. A 2016 study suggested that about 80 percent of U.S. police departments allow this kind of work.
Under the law, off-duty officers retain all the authority of on-duty cops "24 hours a day, anywhere in Oregon." Moonlighting cops can put their hands on you, restrain you and arrest you, provided they follow the same guidelines they use when on duty.
Given this, it's actually a courtesy that they wear the uniform. Do you really want to find out after the fact that the guy you just hit in the face with a pie was an off-duty cop and not—as you'd previously supposed—just some guy with no sense of humor and an unfortunate haircut?
You could go on a granola-fueled rant here about the civic functions of government being sold to the highest bidder (can I hire uniformed soldiers to assist with my pre-emptive invasion of Troutdale? How about a fully robed judge to imprison my friends for particularly egregious rules violations in Scrabble?), but be aware that, actually, the Portland Police Bureau's handling of cops' off-duty work is considered a model for the nation.
In Portland, corporate overlords seeking police muscle contract for it through the bureau itself. Other cities have allowed private companies to do it, leading to abuses like the price-fixing and intimidation an FBI investigation found last year in Seattle. (They're now in the process of switching to our method.)
Look on the bright side: Plenty of rich folks lobby the city for more regular, on-duty, taxpayer-funded officers to be assigned to their area. At least Apple is willing to put its money where its mouth is.