Portland Police Officers Work Overtime for Private Employers—Sometimes Over the Objections of Bureau Brass

One commander objected to officers working as security at the Apple Store. But the police union calls the shots.

As commander of the Portland Police Bureau's Central Precinct, Mike Krantz, a 26-year veteran, is one of the most powerful people in the city's costliest bureau.

Yet when Krantz objected to officers working at the downtown Apple Store during their spare time, he didn't stand a chance.

Krantz's objections mattered less than the wishes of two powerful forces: Apple Computer, the world's second-largest company, with a stock market value of about $1 trillion, and the Portland Police Association, a labor union whose members will soon begin negotiating a new contract with the city of Portland.

While off-duty cops have worked as Apple guards for three years under a contract the association has with Apple, Krantz objected to the 2019 contract because he thought it benefited just Apple, not the public.

But Apple and the police union wanted the contract to continue—so it did.
A police spokeswoman, Lt. Tina Jones, says now-retired Deputy Chief Bob Day overruled Krantz, but notes from several interviews city auditors conducted for a review of police overtime released earlier this month make it clear how the union calls the shots on private contracts like the one with Apple. (PPA president Daryl Turner declined to be interviewed for this story.)

That kind of work—using one's public position and public resources to earn extra money—is unavailable to other city employees because of state ethics laws. But the city allows police to work for private companies on "pass-through" contracts: The companies pay the city and the city passes the money along to officers.

Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch says his watchdog group has repeatedly complained to City Hall about the deal, which places a uniformed officer at the downtown Apple Store most days.

As the Portland Police Association and the city prepare to negotiate a new contract, one of the flashpoints for the union is the large number of vacancies in the ranks—nearly 100. Yet officers and sergeants still managed to put in many thousands of hours for private employers such as Apple last year.

Handelman says the fact that Apple and other private companies continue to have uniformed officers onsite reflects the union's might.

"They usually get what they want," Handelman says.

A Portland police officer outside the Moda Center before a Blazers game. (Sam Gehrke)

A lot of cops moonlight.

A 2017 national study conducted by Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and now associate professor of law at the University of South Carolina, found that about 80 percent of police agencies allow some kind of outside work, although the terms of that work vary considerably. Stoughton found that police moonlighting can contribute to burnout, exhaustion and performance problems, as well as raise equity issues. (Like many of the key players around the issue of police moonlighting, Stoughton declined to be interviewed for this story because he may soon be involved in litigation  concerning the city.)

In Oregon, public employees are allowed to moonlight, with their bosses' permission. But under Oregon's government ethics laws, they can't use public resources—such as uniforms, guns and vehicles—or their public positions to obtain such after-hours work. Except for police officers, because of a deal the city struck with the union.

Portland parks employees, for instance, can't use city lawn mowers and trucks to run landscaping businesses after hours. Bureau of Environmental Services plumbers can't use city power washers to run a private cleaning business.

But Portland police officers regularly use their public positions and city resources, including uniforms, guns and vehicles, to earn money they wouldn't get except for their positions as officers with the bureau.

City Attorney Tracy Reeve says the arrangement is kosher because moonlighting officers are paid through the city rather than privately and only work on city-approved contracts.

"The officers undertaking the special-duty employment remain employees of the city of Portland and are paid by the city for this work," Reeve wrote in an email. "Because officers performing special-duty employment remain employees of the city and are paid by the city, there is no issue of them using their public positions for private gain."

As a recent city audit found, moonlighting police work lots of hours and earn lots of money.

Last year, officers and sergeants worked nearly 19,000 hours at what the Police Bureau calls "secondary employment." That's down from the previous two years, auditors found, when they averaged 25,000 hours a year.

Officers and sergeants get paid well to work for outside contractors—they earn an overtime rate of 1.5 times their normal hourly pay, or about $74 an hour. About 90 companies hire officers under the program.

Police are supposed to work no more than 20 hours a week of secondary employment. But auditors found 39 violations of that limit last year. In total, Portland cops took home an extra $1.4 million last year for doing work that ethics laws prohibit nearly all other public employees from doing.

In interviews with auditors, Krantz said he didn't always like the practice, which according to bureau directives is supposed to provide "community benefit."

Krantz told auditors "some people think the Apple and [Gateway] Fred Meyer contracts provided community benefits, but he personally did not think it benefited the Police Bureau," auditors wrote in a report of a Feb. 20, 2019, interview with Krantz. "He noted he had rejected the Apple contract for 2019 but he had been overruled." (Krantz was traveling this week and unavailable for comment. Chief Danielle Outlaw declined an interview request because of the upcoming union contract negotiations.)

Assistant Chief of Operations Ryan Lee provided auditors with some history of secondary employment for officers, explaining the union is the primary point of contact for private employers and makes staffing decisions about which officers get assignments at Apple or Moda Center.

"In contrast to the way it works now (union then-commander), [Lee] said that the contracts should be routed through the chief before the union review to see if there is public benefit," the auditors wrote. "We asked why the PPA played such a prominent role in approving contracts. [Lee] said it had been that way for a long time."

City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, an outspoken critic of the Police Bureau, also declined to be interviewed for this story, citing the sensitivity of upcoming union negotiations. But Hardesty did speak to city auditors earlier this year. She made it clear she's skeptical about police moonlighting.

"She doesn't like that uniformed officers are working for the Apple Store and questioned how that was at all appropriate," auditors noted. "She said if businesses need extra assistance, they should hire security staff."

Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, was less reticent.

"The Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Police Association have told the public Portland has too few police officers," Harmon Johnson says. "Now we hear through audit findings that they have plenty of staff available to work 20,000 hours a year for contracted entities and private events [and] we learn Portland police officers are eligible to make thousands more each year, by working in uniform, on outside contracts. What kind of system is this? PPA demonstrates again that it is like no other public employee union in the state. Which other workers are allowed to use public resources in this way?"

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.