Aldermen discuss use of off-duty officers as club security

Pine Bluff Alderwoman Thelma Walker took her disagreement with Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks over the use of off-duty officers as nightclub security guards to the floor of the council chambers Monday night.

Walker took the opportunity to question Hubanks further as Alderman Wayne Easterly was concluding his report as chair of the council’s public safety committee.

“Chief Hubanks I have concerns regarding your views on the use of Pine Bluff police officers by club owners for security,” Walker said.

“I believe that an off-duty officer renting out his or her badge to a nightclub owner could expose this department to torts,” Hubanks said, referring to the legal term related to claims of personal injury. “I spoke with Assistant City Attorney Joe Childers about this. If an intoxicated person is seen by the officer while they are working security outside a nightclub and the officer allows them to get in a car and drive off, if an accident then occurs the city is liable. I didn’t make my decision to prohibit our officers from this type of work lightly. I realize that these officers supplement their incomes with these jobs.”

Hubanks said image also played a part in his decision.

“I don’t think officers should be seen working for an establishment that is in the business of selling alcohol,” Hubanks said. “While tort immunity does exist at the state and local levels it does not always extend to the federal level. If I can prevent the city’s exposure to potential litigation by making this move I believe that is the right way to proceed.”

Walker was not swayed.

“I just don’t see how it is not a good idea to have police officers on hand at these clubs,” Walker said. “They do an excellent job at keeping things under control. These officers also depend on the money that they make doing this work.”

Alderman Glen Brown added his thoughts on the matter.

“When you were talking about torts before, I believe that is your personal deal,” Brown said. “It’s about control. Isn’t it better to have officers on hand to keep situations from escalating out of control? If the police have to be called, by the time they get there things will have already escalated. Whatever your personal opinion is, many taxpayers in our town enjoy going to clubs. They should be able to feel safe there.

“We should let people work, live their lives and pay taxes,” Brown said. “This isn’t 200 years ago.”

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth tried to make a point.

“Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson does not allow his deputies to work in clubs,” Hollingsworth said.

“Not good enough,” Brown said in response.

‘I was making a statement,” Hollingsworth said.

“Not good enough,” Brown said.

Easterly was visibly upset by the questioning from Walker and Brown.

“I am sorry that you were grilled,” Easterly said to Hubanks. “My report was hijacked for people to express their personal feelings. This won’t happen again.”