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April 16, 2013
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Off-duty traffic stops land Iowa cop in trouble

Off-duty officers are urged to take action in more serious scenarios, but traffic stops is not one of them

By Chelsea Davis
The Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA, Iowa — After receiving a complaint about one of its officers, the Ottumwa Police Department has taken "personnel action."

A citizen filed a complaint with the OPD that an officer had engaged in traffic enforcement activities when he or she was off duty sometime in the last two months.

According to the department's policy manual, "Off-duty members shall act in an official capacity if they observe an incident requiring police action when time is of the essence and such action will safeguard life."

If an off-duty officer were to witness a robbery, homicide or assault, those instances would warrant the officer taking action.

"But when they are off duty, they cannot be engaged in law enforcement activities such as traffic enforcement or for violations of minor crimes where time is not of the essence or where [there is no need to] safeguard life," said Interim Police Chief Tom McAndrew.

As a result of the complaint, the department launched an internal investigation of an officer and "personnel action" was taken.

"Since it's a personnel matter, I cannot comment on what action we took," McAndrew said.

McAndrew wants citizens to be sure that when they are stopped by an officer that he or she is conducting official police operations.

"We want to make sure our officers are in uniform, in a marked patrol unit and are officially on duty," he said. "Any cases in which citizens believe they've been stopped by someone claiming to be a police officer but they're not in a marked patrol car or in uniform, we want them to notify us."

Reprinted with permission from the Ottumwa Courier






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