Miami police know their off-duty employment program is ripe for abuse.
Audits have found it can’t keep track of all hours worked or money paid, and it risks public safety as tired officers work more hours per day than allowed.
But, despite repeated warnings and promises by the city to address the problems, the city has once again reneged on its promise to reform an operation that has funneled an estimated $1.5 million a month to officers who work special events and private security jobs on the side.
Since 2016, the city’s auditor general has twice revealed how defective and unaccountable the so-called “extra-duty employment program” is, and each time the city has vowed to make corrections, only to later fail to do so.
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A January 2020 report from the city’s auditor general’s found police had done nothing to address four key findings from its 2016 audit.
In response, the city said police “will procure the services of a third-party administrator to handle scheduling, collection and payment for extra-duty jobs” and that the new system would be fully implemented by October 2020.
But resistance from within the police department – including the Special Events Unit that oversees off-duty employment that pays officers at least $50.50 an hour – this month derailed that effort.
One source involved in the procurement described as “absurd” some of the arguments opponents within the police department used to maintain their power over the lucrative, sketchy system.
A request for proposals attracted three valid bidders and, in June 2021, a city procurement evaluation committee recommended the highest ranked and lowest priced proposer, RollKall Technologies.
But, after an August meeting to negotiate the contract led to a revised proposal, forces within the police department met and “determined that the cost-benefit of the highest ranked proposer, who also provided the lowest proposed pricing, is not in the best interest of the city,” according to a procurement department memo to the city manager obtained by the NBC 6 Investigators.
A public records request for a copy of any “cost-benefit” analysis or other record revealing why police found it “not in the best interest of the city” has so far gone unfulfilled.
On Nov. 11, city manager Art Noriega signed off on the procurement department’s recommendation to reject all responses.
Former chief Jorge Colina, who headed the department when it promised in 2020 to hire an outside manager, told NBC 6 that decision was “disappointing” and represented “a lost opportunity” to correct a system that has been plagued with problems.
Among them: the Special Events Unit and the city do not keep track of how much income officers should report on their taxes when they are paid – sometimes in cash – by businesses.
In most cases the department has no documentation showing exactly how much cash or other benefit officers receive from private employers.
Officers were also found to be working more hours per day than the maximum 16 hours allowed for on- and off-duty employment.
Auditors also found officers being paid by the city for on-duty work for the same hours they were paid for off-duty jobs, something the independent Civilian Investigative Panel found could constitute criminal conduct, specifically theft or official misconduct.
“That was an egregious use of misconduct, obviously robbing the taxpayers of the services they pay for,” said Rodney Jacobs, assistant director of the CIP.
Since September 2020, officers are paid $50.50 per hour when working extra duty, with the employers paying an additional $4.50 per hour directly to the city as an administrative fee. (Sergeants and other higher-ranking officers are paid more.)
The administrative fees help fund the police budget, raising about $1.6 million a year from 2015 through 2018. The 2020 audit found more than $103,000 in fees were past due and there’s a risk the city is not collecting other fees it should because its budget unit does not get a list of all hours and jobs worked by officers.
In its negotiations with RollKall in August, the city estimated the company would earn gross income of nearly $2.4 million per year, based on the 8.29% rate it proposed charging businesses that use extra duty officers. The city suggested RollKall lower the rate, especially for some jobs – like Ultra Music Festival or Calle Ocho – where the Special Events Unit would still be needed to plan and coordinate.
The company agreed to lower rates, according to negotiation meeting notes from September.
Two months later, the project was dead.
But the city has not yet provided a record explaining why – specifically, the cost-benefit analysis it says the police department used to persuade procurement and the city manager to once again abandon reforms that would have addressed problems in the off-duty program.
In a statement to NBC 6, RollKall’s president, Steven Power, said it “respects the City of Miami’s decision to re-evaluate its requirements” and “would welcome the opportunity to partner with the city in the future.”