Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) introduced an ordinance that would repeal a long-standing ban on police officers having second jobs in any business that sells liquor.  

The prohibition exists because police officers are required to enforce the liquor code and working for a liquor-selling business would pose a conflict of interest. 

In a recent interview, Ervin said that despite the apparent conflict, he wants to allow off-duty officers to work security at liquor stores. Many liquor stores tend to be trouble spots, he said, and allowing police officers to work security for them would help enhance safety in those areas. 

Ervin introduced the legislation during a Chicago City Council meeting on June 25. As of July 22, it doesn’t have any co-sponsors. The heads of both the Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce expressed support for Ervin’s legislation, saying that having trained police officers would make the areas around liquor stores safer.

In addition to prohibiting officers from having second jobs at businesses that sell liquor, the current ordinance also bans officers “from engaging directly or indirectly in the ownership, maintenance, or operation of a tavern or retail liquor establishment,” and doesn’t allow officers to serve as bartenders or cocktail waiters under any circumstances. On Jan. 9, 2020, the police department added the same type of ban on working at cannabis dispensaries. 

Ervin’s ordinance would remove the language about working second jobs at liquor-selling establishments, while keeping the other aspects of the ban in place.

Ervin said that he has seen many examples of crime happening in and around liquor stores.

“We’ve had problems from those establishments and barring officers from working at those establishments doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Ervin’s legislation would need to clear the Committee on Public Safety before passing the full City Council. The earliest it could go before the committee is August. 

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), who chairs the committee and is responsible for what goes on each agenda, didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline.

Tina Augustus, the head of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said that she has spoken to several Austin business owners who had to deal with drug-dealing inside and nearby their stores. Some of them were also concerned about theft and vandalism. 

“I’ve had conversations with a business owner in Austin who’s been shot three times, but he’s still here,” Augustus said. “Who wants to operate a business when you have people vandalizing your business and busting out your windows?”

Siri Hibbler, head of Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce, said she also supports Ervin’s measure, because she believes police training makes off-duty officers better equipped to respond to crimes. 

Hibbler said on May 21, a 23-year-old woman and an 18-year-old man were fatally shot at the parking lot of Franklin’s Super Food and Liquors, 501 N. Kedzie Ave. Hibbler said that she lives nearby and the incident was “quite devastating” to her and her neighbors.

“I think if they had maybe a trained off-duty police officer, maybe it could’ve turned out differently,” she said. “I don’t see anything wrong with having off-duty officers work security at liquor stores, from the business perspective.” 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...