Ohio Businesses Face Additional Fee for Insuring Officers for Security

Businesses that hire Summit County (Ohio) sheriff's deputies for security will pay an extra $1 an hour to insure them.

The action is aimed at keeping taxpayers from having to foot the bill if a deputy is sued for his actions while moonlighting in a security job.

The Summit County Council approved the measure at its meeting Monday.

Grocery stores and other businesses who want to hire off-duty deputies will have to pay $22 per hour for their services -- up from $21.

The extra money is expected to amount to about $40,000 a year. The goal is to establish a $75,000 insurance fund, said Linda Murphy, an attorney with the county executive's office.

The question of who was liable for deputies arose after one was sued for actions he took while working security at Blossom Music Center, said John McCutcheon, president of FOP Local 139, which represents Summit sheriff's deputies.

McCutcheon said the county didn't feel taxpayers should have to foot the bill for the deputy because he was off duty at the time. But the concert center maintained the county should cover the deputy's actions.

``We got with the administration and the county and said we needed to work this out,'' McCutcheon said.

Deputies, even when they are off duty or working outside security jobs, are obliged to act as law enforcement officers if they witness a crime. That's a position that's supported in state law and in decisions by the Ohio Supreme Court, Murphy said.

``If a sheriff's deputy, who has a day off work, walks into a bank and a robbery happens, he is required by law to take action,'' Murphy said.

As a result, the county must cover deputies for liability when they are working outside security jobs, she said.

But the county is self-insured and has to foot the bill for the first $75,000 of any settlement against it. County officials didn't think taxpayers should have to pay for actions that happened when a deputy was working for a private company, Murphy said.

``We don't want it to come from county money because it's from a part-time job.... We want to have the third-party employers pay,'' Murphy said.

The extra dollar an hour still will keep deputies' wages in line with other off-duty officers. Akron police officers are paid $23 per hour for off-duty work, according to city police.

Any money collected in the fund over $75,000 is to be used toward the purchase of equipment for deputies, Murphy said.

McCutcheon said the insurance fund will cover the county's 363 full-time deputies and also 75 part-time deputies, known as special deputies.

The specials aren't employed as full-time officers and may only be called upon to work in times of special need, like weather disasters. They also work civic functions like parades or charity events, he said.