Policeman Sacked for Being a Clown: Should Officers be Allowed to Have Second Jobs?

State police as well as members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) have been moonlighting in all kinds of second jobs – from shelf-stacking in supermarkets, to marriage celebrants, musicians, helicopter pilots, skydiving instructions and horse-riding trainers.

Hundreds of AFP officers are doing it – in fact, approximately one out of ten have a second job, and the number is increasing.

This is mirrored in state police forces – for example more than 7 per cent of the serving Victorian police force has a second job. A few even have a third or fourth job.

Is this allowed?

Like the rest of us, police officers are allowed to get a second job – as long as it does not interfere with their policing duties or bring the force into disrepute.

However, they must apply for permission first.

Applications are decided on a case-by-case basis, and a failure to report can result in an investigation and disciplinary action.

Police officer fired for clowning around in his spare time

One NSW police officer was stood down due to his stint as the ‘Magic Jester.’

Several years ago, Senior Constable Shayne Richards lost his job after continually performing his clown act after being told to stop.

After being caught out, he initially said that he was performing voluntarily for charity, but it was discovered that the officer was actually being paid $300 for the shows.

He had also taken extraordinary amounts of sick leave – leading to suspicion that he had been performing when claiming to be sick.

The officer was fired from his job, but reinstated after a three-year battle to get his job back.

Why are so many getting second jobs?

According to Victorian Police Association Assistant Secretary Bruce McKenzie, the reasons behind officers getting a second job are not always financial; rather, they can act as an outlet for stress and add variety to life.

Indeed, many lawyers also get second jobs – performing as musicians, artists, actors, producers and even running other businesses.

Some police officers work in the family business or just want to keep their future options open, according to Queensland Police Services President Ian Leaves.

Is it a problem?

It is easy to see how secondary jobs could potentially result in conflicts of interest or create other problems – given that police officers can ‘act in their duty as a police officer’ even outside working hours.

There is also potential for additional stress or fatigue, which may hamper an officer’s ability to perform their duties at work, or even be dangerous given that officers carry lethal weaponry.

For this reason, most police forces have regulations – preventing police from working in a range of jobs such as security, gaming, firearms and the sex industry.

Police officers are also supposed to be politically neutral. But despite this, several officers in Queensland have been approved to work as local councillors and council workers.

Police unions are in support of officers finding fulfilling work outside the police force.

Police Association Assistant Secretary Bruce McKenzie says that “like the public, our members are entitled to undertake secondary work provided there is no conflict.”

But not everyone agrees. One ethics expert, Bill de Maria, believes that since the community relies heavily on police to be 100% focused on their job to protect public safety, having a second job necessarily detracts from this and can even be dangerous.

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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.
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