03/24/2006

Tampa police policy bans intradepartment dating

Copyright 2006 The Tribune Co. Publishes The Tampa Tribune

By VALERIE KALFRIN

TAMPA - Kevin Durkin is a divorced Tampa police detective, head of the police union and a private guy when it comes to his personal life.

So he's baffled why he and other officers have to tell Police Chief Stephen Hogue about a one-night stand with a colleague or thinking of asking a co-worker for a date.

"I don't tell my mom who I'm dating, unless things work out," he said Tuesday.

The union Durkin leads may contest a bulletin the police department's legal adviser issued last week, advising all sworn personnel about a city policy banning fraternization between supervisors and subordinates as well as among co-workers.

"We're now 'The Dating Game' police," said Durkin, president of the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Police department spokeswoman Laura McElroy said the bulletin was meant to remind everyone - especially newly promoted corporals and sergeants - about the three-year-old policy.

Durkin, however, described the bulletin as a "knee-jerk reaction to a couple of officers who have had problems with relationships."

He declined to elaborate. McElroy said the executive staff did not discuss specific officers before asking Assistant City Attorney Kirby Rainsberger to draft the bulletin.

City Policy B24.1 was part of the city's ethics ordinance. In addition to prohibiting supervisors from overseeing people with whom they are intimate, it states co-workers who are involved with each other must disclose their relationship so one can be reassigned to another shift, unit or facility.

It is a fairly standard policy among local law enforcement agencies, with the exception of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. There, Sheriff Jim Coats has prohibited adultery, exempting people who are legally separated or filing for divorce.

Durkin and McElroy agreed that having supervisors and subordinates work together while romantically involved presents problems. In addition, one co-worker dating another might put himself in harm's way to help his sweetheart - say, charging into a burning building or gunfight - which is a safety concern.

But the language used in the bulletin is "way overblown," Durkin said, making him question the degree to which the department will judge officers' love lives.

"I don't think any of this is appropriate," he said.

For instance, the bulletin says close personal relationships include "casual dating, any sexual relationship and cohabitation."

Any "pending or potential relationship" between a supervisor and a subordinate must be immediately disclosed to the police chief's office by both employees "so that immediate corrective action can be taken," the document states. Any co-workers who have such relationships also must disclose the contact, which can result in their working different shifts or with different squads.

Failing to disclose such a relationship could result in dismissal, the bulletin states.

Employee Relations Manager Sarah Lang said the proposed discipline is standard for not following any city policy. Neither she nor McElroy could recall any officer being dismissed over not revealing such a relationship.

Police and firefighters are the city employees most often reassigned because of their love lives and the judgment calls they must make under stress, Lang said. "I can't recall moving anyone if it wasn't for safety reasons," she said.

McElroy said the department had not learned of the police union's concerns but is open to discussing them.

"We're not trying to police people's dating," she said. "We're trying to make sure people are safe."

Reporter Valerie Kalfrin can be reached at (813) 259-7800.

Copyright © 2006, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without permission. E-mail library@tampatrib.com 


 

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