You may soon see legitimate, gun-toting, badge-wearing sheriff's deputies working private security at your local Walgreens, as the supervisors approved a plan to let them moonlight as private retail security.
Off-duty police have been working side gigs as private security for years, and probably making bank doing so. But deputy sheriffs are classified differently from a legal standpoint, and per the letter of the law, sheriffs can only work security at “special events or occurrences that happen on an occasional basis.” And that does not mean any old Monday afternoon at Walgreens.
But it can now, as incidents of organized shoplifting have lawmakers keen to announce they’re cracking down on all this. KTVU reports the SF Board of Supervisors approved a plan to let off-duty deputies be hired as retail private security by a 7-3 vote Tuesday, with the measure’s author Sup. Ahsha Safai saying “The reputation of our city is on the line.”
Today a press conference was held in support of Supervisor Safai’s 10A legislation that will allow #SFSO Deputy Sheriff’s to work overtime at retail or commercial establishments for special events.The legislation passed the first reading today, final vote will be held next week. pic.twitter.com/v2aJeNuujP— SF Sheriff's Office (@SheriffSF) December 8, 2021
The Sheriff’s Department is certainly on board, as you can see from the above tweet. “This is a great opportunity for us to help with keeping our communities safe,” Sheriff Pail Miyamoto said, according to the Chronicle. “I appreciate the fact that we are now going to be a little more hopeful that we can assist in increasing the feeling of safety and the quality of care that we provide as public safety entities.”
The city is not paying for this — the private retailer would be on the hook for paying for this security. And they’d pay the deputies their time-and-a-half overtime rate.
Actually they cannot. See CA Gov Code Sec 53069(a)(1). AG opinions make this clear. See Kern 68 Ops. Atty Gen 175 (1985) (City can’t contract w/ private party to provide ongoing private security service by peace officer). Promising sheriffs for retail security is a false promise.— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) December 8, 2021
But Sup. Dean Preston insisted that none of this is even legal. “It is not a purpose that is allowed by state law,” Preston said prior to the vote, arguing this violates the “special events or occurrences that happen on an occasional basis.” clause. (He and supervisors Ronen and Walton voted against the proposal). “If the intent here is to provide Walgreens with our sheriff’s deputies and our police officers for a fee, that is absolutely illegal.”
But Safai argued “There is no strong definition for ‘occasional,’” and he pointed out that plenty of other California counties are doing this too. “This has been vetted legally,” he said.
So with the supervisors’ approval, the sheriff’s deputies will begin working private security beginning sometime around March. That is, unless there’s some sort of ACLU lawsuit about this between now and then.
Image: @SheriffSF via Twitter