The Boulder Police Department draws a narrow distinction between groups eligible to hire officers who would normally be off duty for extra patrol, and those barred from doing so.

Photo by Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

Boulder Police Officer Hoppus, who declined to give his first name, works the Boulder Oktoberfest on Friday.

As the city’s off-duty policing program has made headlines recently because of a decision by top officials to disallow local federal immigration contractor BI, Inc., from using the police department service, and then a reversal of that move, questions have arisen over who exactly in Boulder can hire off-duty officers, and why some businesses can’t.

Giving businesses and local organizations the option to hire police who aren’t scheduled to work for their department is a common offering of local law enforcement agencies, and gives officers the chance to make an extra buck. To ensure city taxpayers have no stake in such hirings, Boulder police use a third-party contractor,to coordinate scheduling of off-duty assignments. Funding comes from fees paid by the entities that hire off-duty officers,

In general, Boulder police refuse to allow officers to fulfill off-duty requests for extra detail at businesses licensed as a tavern, club, marijuana-related operations, retail liquor store or any establishment selling or dispensing any alcoholic beverage without an exemption granted by the police chief.

“It is been a long-standing practice that we do not approve individual officers to work for alcohol-based businesses based on a historical belief that a relationship between the two lead to impropriety,” Boulder police spokesperson Shannon Aulabaugh said. “Additionally, it is a possible conflict of interest since we are asked to enforce license compliance at licensed businesses.”

Department chiefs have not granted any exceptions to this rule, she added.

Yet at least one officer, and perhaps more, scheduled to be off-duty Friday afternoon agreed to take a shift working into the late evening at the Oktoberfest event in Boulder’s Central Park, where beer will be flowing from kegs into steins all weekend.

Boulder policy allows the provision of off-duty officers at affairs that require a special event permit from the city that may include a beer tent or alcohol service as part of a gathering with a larger purpose than just selling or consuming booze.

“If alcohol isn’t the primary focus of the event, and it’s an event that requires a special event permit from the city, they’re eligible,” Aulabaugh said.

Boulder off-duty police officer costs

Off-duty officer: $65 per hour
Off-duty sergeant: $82 per hour
Off-duty commander: $95 per hour
Off- duty dispatcher: $50 per hour ($67 per hour on city-recognized holidays)
Patrol vehicle (by request): $50 per day

(Minimum three paid hours per assignment. Source: city of Boulder)

The reason marijuana-related businesses are ineligible is because the substance is still federally illegal, despite Colorado and Boulder laws allowing for the sale of pot to adults 21 and older by licensed entities. It has been a Boulder police decision to avoid giving pot businesses the option to hire off-duty officers, even though the department legally could.

But that policy could be revisited in the future, and open up the department to allowing off-duty officers to work for local pot entrepreneurs, according to Aulabuagh, although there are no imminent plans to discuss a change to the policy.

Among the businesses impacted by the police policy are holders of the 15 active Boulder-issued tavern licenses, two club licenses, 89 marijuana business licenses, 24 retail liquor store licenses and a total of 215 more licenses for establishments selling or dispensing any alcoholic beverage, according to city Licensing Manager Mishawn Cook.

Even if bar owners could hire the police department for their security needs, it’s not clear any would be interested.

“We never thought about having (police). Our guys, we felt, were just as good as police at identifying (fake) IDs,” said Chris Heinritz, an owner of The Sink on University Hill, which recently moved its closing time from 2 a.m. to 11 p.m. “The late-night scene can get pretty gray as far as the law, it’s based on people’s judgment of how intoxicated is someone. … I’m sure the city doesn’t want their guys having anything to do with that.”

Plus, he said, it’s helpful for patrons to realize their behavior has really crossed the line when police show up, as opposed to being told to knock it off or leave by bar-hired security personnel who are unable take any official law enforcement action.

“There is a clear distinction between a police officer and door staff,” Heinritz said.

Ralphie’s, a sports bar on Arapahoe Avenue, hires private security officials for University of Colorado home football games, but also would avoid hiring police if given the chance, owner John Bui said.

Terrapin Care Station, a Colorado marijuana chain with a dispensary on Folsom Street at Canyon Boulevard, is more open to the idea of hiring off-duty officers if businesses like it were ever made eligible for the program.

“If Boulder Police Department allowed off-duty cops to do in-store security for us, and if that need came up, we would absolutely consider using off-duty officers,” Terrapin spokesman Peter Marcus said.

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