Sandwiched between reports of a drug bust and beat cop reassignments, the August minutes of a West Seattle citizen's crime prevention group trumpeted a brand new cop policy: "SPD no longer allows off-duty officers to be hired as security for private and business-sponsored teen/underage dances."

That policy is a surprise to people like Dave Meinert, a local music promoter who helped draft the city's All Ages Dance Ordinance (AADO) two years ago. "It's ironic to me because [the police] argued so hard that it be a requirement that they work these events, and now they're saying they refuse to work them," Meinert says. Specifically, the AADO says teen dance organizers have to request off-duty cops. But the AADO also says that if the cops turn down the off-duty work, the show can go on--a music-protecting clause the police had fought against.

Despite what an officer told the group, the off-duty policy hasn't changed to include a blanket policy against all-ages shows, says SPD spokesperson Sean Whitcomb. "Officers are able to [work off-duty], except for places where the main function is to serve liquor." Those places include Pioneer Square bars and clubs. Raves are also off limits. But venues where alcohol is "incidental"--like a Mariner's game, or a Benaroya Hall concert--are all right. The officer's supervisor makes the call when okaying the off-duty work, which is done on a per-event basis. Police do turn down events case by case, explains Whitcomb.

This subjective policy has music-scene folks worried. Policies on what events off-duty cops will work can have a huge effect on the local music biz--promoters will potentially choose venues that are allowed to hire off-duty officers over venues that aren't, giving a business advantage to the places police will work. "It's really affecting music venues, whether it's all ages or a bar, because the police are being selective," explains James Keblas from the Vera Project.

"They definitely have a new policy," says Meinert. "At least internally." He points out that venues like the Paramount, the Pier, and the Moore (not to mention festivals like Bumbershoot and sporting events) can hire off-duty officers. Other similar-sized concert venues, like the Showbox and the Premier, can't. All serve alcohol. "How is this being determined? It's very weird and very haphazard," he says.

Keblas and Meinert, who both sit on the city's Music Advisory Board, say Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has told their group that the police are tinkering with the off-duty policy, at least to clarify it, and possibly to prevent police corruption. (The FBI Public Integrity Task Force has reportedly been questioning people regarding a few Seattle officers who are possibly taking money or selling drugs while working off-duty ["Under Investigation," Josh Feit, July 8].) Keblas says the advisory board has asked to be part of any music-related policymaking. "The police are open to it, but we still haven't been asked," Keblas says. "We aren't there at the table."

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