A little more than a year ago, Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates banned his officers from all off-duty work at SoBe nightclubs after a string of embarrassments, including a sergeant who got wasted while working at Mango's Tropical Cafe. Today, Beach cops are not only back on the job, but they're also getting a nice raise.
City commissioners and the chief have signed off on an agreement that sets off-duty pay for Beach cops at $50 per hour, a hefty $15-per-hour hike from their old rate. The reason: The off-duty rate hadn't been raised in four years, and as a result, the city says, not enough Beach cops wanted to work security for big events like the boat show or Art Basel. Those events rely on hundreds of off-duty cops to direct traffic and crowds.
"The Department was losing the capacity to staff major special events and some permanent off-duty jobs," City Manager Jimmy Morales wrote in a letter to commissioners. "This is because officers were no longer volunteering for the work."
Commissioners agreed, but not without raising the specter of the nightclub problems. Oates banned nightclub gigs in July 2014 after a string of negative headlines, including Sgt. Michael Muley getting so drunk outside Ocean Drive mainstay Mango's that on-duty police officers were called to deal with him.
But Oates let his cops back on the nightclub beat two months later under pressure from the union and after setting new rules in place — including a ban on drinking any refreshments while on the job.
Commissioner Jonah Wolfson says he agreed that a higher off-duty rate was needed to keep big events staffed but wishes the nightclub ban would have remained in effect.
"I'm still of the opinion that we should have kept a ban on working in these clubs that are in Miami Beach, because it's not proper," Wolfson says. "The pay raise doesn't bother me as much where they're still working."
Off-duty gigs can be quite lucrative for Beach cops. When Oates instituted his short-lived ban, New Times found that 80 Beach cops had earned a combined $377,090.50 from off-duty nightclub work the previous year. Earlier, New Times found that many officers earned six figures with overtime — including one cop who made $225,000 in a calendar year.
The new off-duty raise goes into effect in December.