Off-duty officers banned from working outside bars

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Buffalo Police Commissioner Dan Derenda is, at least temporarily, putting a hold on his officers providing security outside bars and nightclubs.

“Yesterday, we rescinded the rights of off-duty officers to work outside of bars,” Commissioner Derenda told reporters Friday.

“Personally, I think it’s a good thing to have officers outside of establishments. Trained officers, with the ability that security officers don’t have. But as I said, we are reviewing and updating our policy,” Derenda said.

Although the State Liquor Authority prohibits police officers in New York from working in- or outside of establishments that serve alcohol, the Buffalo Police Department’s policy has traditionally been to let officers work security outside bars, on a part-time basis when they are off-duty.

That policy was reviewed and upheld by attorneys in 1998.

Commissioner Derenda says Thursday’s decision affects approximately 20 to 25 officers, who currently have the department’s permission for bar security gigs.

It is unclear whether the new rule about officers working outside of bars will become permanent. Derenda said the review, and any potential policy changes, will take time.

“In the ideal situation, I’d like to have them outside. I believe that is the ideal choice,” said Derenda. “It is against New York State law to work inside. I do know that other states, they have on-duty officers inside nightclubs. It’s something that would probably need lots of legislation.”

This decision comes while two Buffalo officers are on suspension for an incident that happened while they were off-duty and working security at Mollys Pub during the early-morning hours of May 11th. Witnesses say 35-year-old Jeffrey Basil, a manager at the bar, pushed Tech. Sgt. William C. Sager, Jr. down a flight of stairs inside the bar. Sager remains in critical condition at Erie County Medical Center. Basil has been charged with assault.

And it was not made entirely, the Commissioner said, because of the events of May 11th.

“We’ve actually been looking at this for several months. Approximately two weeks before the Molly’s Pub incident, we had some information that some of our officers were working inside of bars. Internal Affairs went out and caught a handful working inside, and they now face disciplinary action. So we’ve been reviewing this for some time now,” said Derenda.

As Derenda noted, this review affects, but does not reflect upon, each officer on the force.

“Ninety-nine percent of our officers do the right thing each and every day. When they don’t, we take quick, swift action. We’re very strong on discipline. But 99 percent put their lives on the line each and every day. They’re very professional; they do a great job,” the Commissioner said.

Friends and loved ones prayed for Airman Bill Sager Friday morning at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park.

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