The Blurred Blue Line

SLATE, 1 SEPTEMBER 2016, FEAT. PROF. SETH STOUGHTON:

The debate over law enforcement that’s been raging in America for the past two years has naturally focused on the decisions police officers make when they’re working—not what they do after they punch out for the day. But a new paper by law professor Seth Stoughton, posted online this week in draft form, makes the argument that we’ve been ignoring an important aspect of policing—namely, the massive amount of moonlighting that cops do for private companies when they’re off duty.

For Stoughton, who teaches at the University of South Carolina School of Law, this is a consequential oversight—particularly because, as he learnedwhen he was a police officer in Tallahassee, Florida, and did moonlighting work for nightclubs and other private entities, officers who take these kinds of gigs typically wear their official police uniforms, further blurring the public’s understanding of whether they are on duty or off and whether that matters.

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