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Slain officer Torbit was on-duty

Since early Sunday, the Sun has written two in-depth accounts of the fatal shooting outside a night club near downtown, but one point seems to be unclear, not only among readers but also some reporters and politicians: Officer William H. Torbit Jr. (seen at right) was on-duty when he responded to help quell the unruly crowd outside of Select Lounge. 

In the summer, the shooting of a Marine by an off-duty officer in Mount Vernon raised questions about whether officers should carry their weapons while consuming alcohol. That is not the case in this shooting - Torbit, a plainclothes officer assigned to the Central District, responded to a distress call from an officer already at the club trying to handle the crowd. His badge was either not visible or ripped off during the melee, according to the account pieced together by sources, police, and witnesses.

That point seems lost among many readers, who posted comments and e-mailed us wanting to know what Torbit's blood alcohol content was and wanting to revisit the off-duty weapon policy.

Sun reporter Jill Rosen sought comment on the shooting from councilmembers Monday, and City Council President Bernard "Jack" Young seemed to think Torbit was working security at the bar:

“With secondary employment, we need to make sure our officers know where officers are at all times — who they are and where they are,” Young said. “Somebody should have recognized him. We should at least be able to identify our own.”

Young said that the police department might consider having officers with second jobs wear something that would identify them as police.

“How can you identify another police officer unless they’re wearing something that says police?” he asked. “I feel this is something we probably could have avoided.”

Not only was Torbit not working secondary employment at Select Lounge, city police officers have been prohibited from moonlighting as bar security for more than two years, when Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III issued a ban. Instead, in key areas such as Power Plant Live and Federal Hill, police have pooled money from businesses to pay uniformed officers to work overtime at the direction of police commanders - not bar owners.

Union president Robert F. Cherry says the union and police commanders have crafted a proposal that would allow officers to resume working second jobs at bars, but he says the proposal has been sitting on Bealefeld's desk for months without a response.

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