Law Requiring Moonlighting Officers To Register Not Enforced

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The state is refusing to enforce a law requiring off-duty police officers moonlighting as security guards to register with the state and pay a fee.

Commerce Director Gary Suhadolnik said the law is a waste of time because police officers have already undergone the required criminal background check.

"Common sense would say the public doesn't gain any additional safety if we register police officers and make them pay a fee if they've already undergone a background check," he said Thursday. "It's probably a waste of time and effort on everyone's part."

Suhadolnik is backing a bill sponsored by Rep. Tim Schaeffer, a Lancaster Republican, that would exempt officers moonlighting as security guards from registering with the state and paying a $43 registration fee.

The legislation is also supported by the Ohio Association of Security & Investigation Services, which represents about 670 security guard firms and private investigators.

Taxpayers benefit from private firms hiring off-duty police officers because the company bears the cost if a moonlighting officer is injured on the job, said Jim Silvania, OASIS executive director.

But if that same officer was hired directly from a city department, local taxpayers would pay the cost of an injury or legal action, he said.

Customers who want to hire security guards from private companies also benefit because police officers are generally better trained, Silvania said.

Tenable Protective Services, a Cleveland security company, raised the issue with the Department of Commerce three years ago. In response, Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery released an informal ruling in November 1999 that said state law does require the registration.

However, Suhadolnik said he has chosen not to enforce the law and to back changes through Schaffer's legislation instead. Schaffer's bill is pending in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

"The agency that is required to look into security guard issues is the Department of Commerce, and they have looked at the issue carefully," said Bret Crow, a Montgomery spokesman. "It seems like they're taking steps to resolve the issue."

A message was left with Tenable Protective Services seeking comment.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)