At least 19 local law enforcement officers are making extra money by working off duty, in uniform as security guards, in part for ExxonMobil Corp., local officials said.
Those local police and deputies work as security for the governments and oil giant charged with cleaning up an oil spill that dumped about 5,000 barrels of oil crude oil into a Mayflower subdivision and nearby marsh areas.
Faulkner County sheriff deputies work four shifts at about four officers per shift for $35 an hour, Sheriff Andy Shock said. Three to four officers from the Mayflower Police Department do the same work, Police Chief Bob Satkowski said.
Conway police are not working as security guards, spokeswoman La Tresha Woodruff said in email.
Satkowski said Exxon required officers to wear their uniforms. Exxon spokeswoman Kim Jordan said in email that "our understanding is whether an officer wears the uniform is up to the individual."
In email, Jordan said: "Deputies are required on site to secure homes in the area and ensure public safety."
Officers are allowed to wear their uniforms, even when off duty and working for a private company, if their department OKs it, said Ronnie Baldwin, executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association.
The only stated rule is officers can’t work a second job while on duty, Baldwin said. Shock said his deputies can wear their uniforms. He said his deputies provide security services, direct traffic and divert people.
Shock said people had been emailing him, concerned about his deputies working. Off-duty officers working second jobs remain law enforcement. "I read today that the sheriff’s department has been purchased by Exxon," Jim Howerton wrote April 8 in email to Shock. "Is that actually true?"
The email didn’t say where Howerton is located, and many of the emails are from out-of-state residents.
County Judge Allen Dodson said Exxon is not "running the show."
The state, federal and county government are working with Exxon to clean up the spill. Exxon is financially responsible, Dodson said.
Local law enforcement officials were chosen first because Mayflower is impacted by the oil spill, Dodson said. Deputies and policemen have an opportunity to work and help their own communities, he said. Local officers also have knowledge of the local people and places, Dodson said.
The fact that officers are wearing uniforms is not atypical from other events across the country, Dodson said.
"I feel like these officers have a real conflict of interest," said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association. Police and deputies working off-duty shouldn’t just do everything Exxon says to do, he said.
Shock said officers are watching everyone’s property, not just Exxon’s.
"They are providing a valuable service, not only to Exxon, but to the citizens of Mayflower and Faulkner County by doing this," Shock said.
(Staff writer Scarlet Sims can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)