Legality of Denying Off Duty Police the Right To Work Part Time At Strip Clubs

By Michael P. Ehline, Esq., So I was surfing the net the other day, and saw a really interesting story about what Pittsburgh will tolerate, as far as moonlighting jobs. In L.A., we see police acting as security for movie sets all the time.  Especially in Marina del Rey, Long Beach, and Venice (Anyone ever watch the Cable series “Dexter”?) Anyways, I got to thinking about it, and off duty Los Angles cops in LA, do security for R rated and even unrated movies based upon my research.

Should LA Cops Be Able to Work In Adult Entertainment?

I mean this in the context of providing security of course.  So don’t get carried away. But some of my research indicated that some conduct is considered unbecoming an officer.  But I could not find anything directly on working on an X rated set or strip club as a security guard.  I figured a recent case in another state would be instructive so here goes. The facts related that the attorneys for a downtown Pittsburgh strip club, Blush are going head-to-head with the city of Pittsburgh government attorneys, on the issue of whether off-duty police officers should be permitted to work at adult entertainment venues.

The hearing is expected to last all day and comes after acting Police Chief Regina McDonald stopped police officers from moonlighting last month at “gentlemen’s clubs.” The company that owns Blush, One Three Five Inc. filed a lawsuit alleging that McDonald’s actions violated their First Amendment rights by discriminating against them based on the type of club Blush is.

The attorney representing Blush, Jonathan Kamin said that adult entertainment is a part of protected speech. Kamin said the club is no different from any other bar or hotel, when the adult entertainment factor is removed. The attorney said that having an officer in uniform is effective in deterring crime and Blush has at off-duty officers working the door for 48 years. Kammin went on to state that a security guard without the power to make arrests would not be the same deterrent for crime.

He questions if the city has the legal right to say they are going to deprive the business of services, because they don’t like the speech the club is engaging in. The Assistant City Attorney Wendy Kobee said that there are many cities that bar police officers from working in the adult entertainment establishments to U.S. District Judge Nora Berry Fischer. Kobee said the city does have the ability to determine how to expend its resources.

She said that Blush would be able to operate without the officers at the door and since 2010 there have been 28 reports made for problems at Blush, which were not handled by the police officers moonlighting at the door. They were reports of theft of services from the establishment and a few for other thefts or simple assaults.

There are many witnesses that are expected to testify, including Albert Bortz, whose family has owned Blush for approximately 80 years. Bortz said that having the presence of a uniformed officer makes it safer not only for his employees, but also for the customers and stops aggressive panhandling. I think that this, among fending off other potential miscreants would create a rational basis to have people trained in law enforcement providing security.  I mean, if I has naked ladies running around my club, I would want to provide security for them that was top notch.

Chief McDonald and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 President Sgt. Michael LaPorte are expected to testify on behalf of the city. The officers moonlighting is managed by the bureau as secondary employment and charges $3.85 per hour over the officer’s charge. Federal investigators alleged former police chief Nate Haper of diverting funds from the program into an account that was unauthorized to pay his personal expenses.

So there is a side issue dealing with other alleged bad conduct.  But at the core of the discussion here, at least from my point of view, is that working in that environment, is a gateway to other bad stuff. I mean look at this case alone.  But then when you look at the other side of the coin, not everyone will engage in bad conduct, and the strip clubs do have to be licensed by the city/county.  So it is ok for the govt to make direct money in taxes and fees, but not for off duty cops trying to make ends meet? We shall see.  But as far as LA goes, I personally do not see how it is conduct unbecoming an officer to provide security for a licensed business. What do you think?

About Author

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Michael Ehline is a prolific blogger on California and international tort law. He has been a guest on CNN, discussed in major news publications like Forbes, Circle of Legal Trust, Personal Injury Warriors, and International Cruise Victims. He has lobbied congress on behalf of injured consumers, served as a United States Marine, and won millions of dollars for his clients. This blog discusses Ehline's insights and musings on all aspects of negligence law as it relates to all things "accidents." Ehline can be reached at (213) 596-9642.