Gunman Hoax Cost City Over $30K In Overtime
by Thomas MacMillan | Dec 12, 2013 12:50 pm
Posted to: City Hall, Legal Writes, City Budget
In the wake of a prank call that shut the city down and then socked it with a huge policing bill, Chief Dean Esserman assured aldermen that he’s working to rein in overtime spending and plans to finish the year on budget.
Esserman (pictured) made those assurances Wednesday evening in City Hall’s Aldermanic Chamber, where he faced the Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee.
Esserman was there because of a “sequestration” provision that aldermen put into the current fiscal year’s city budget, at the suggestion of the board President Jorge Perez.
In order to force the police department to cut down on overtime costs, aldermen “sequestered” $1.5 million in police overtime funding. Before he could access the funds, the chief had to appear before city lawmakers to brief them on his efforts to control overtime spending.
The committee was sufficiently impressed with the chief’s testimony to recommend that the full board vote to transfer the sequestered $1.5 million into the police overtime budget, bringing the total available to just under $5 million for the year.
The chief told aldermen his department will meet that budget, despite some expensive weeks of overtime spending.
After his testimony, the chief revealed that his department spent between $32,000 and $35,000 responding to the gunman hoax that shut down Yale and the city center last month. The chief said that total includes not just the day-of response, which included SWAT team deployment. It also includes the investigative response: days in which detectives were working long hours to find the guy who may have called in the false report of a man with a gun on Yale’s campus.
The overtime total for that week ended up close to $150,000, Esserman said. That’s well above his weekly overtime target of under $90,000. Esserman said the department was alread over budget for the week because of extra club-district policing.
Esserman said he would be happy to bill the guy who called in the gun threat for the overtime spending he caused. Esserman said Perez came up with that idea and the Esserman is looking into it.
Esserman told aldermen that he holds weekly meetings to keep tabs on overtime spending. He said weeks where the department goes over budget requires him to find ways to make other weeks come in under the $90,000 mark.
“I made a commitment to the president and the board that we would manage overtime and focus on it with a laser,” Esserman told the committee.
When the fiscal year began on July 1, the department found itself immediately running over its weekly budget, Esserman said. That’s because summer nights—when crime tends to increase—require more police on duty.
Esserman and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts (pictured) noted that the police department has the fewest cops in memory, but the chief is managing to keep overtime spending lower than in recent years, while reducing the crime rate.
“We’ve cut the murder rate in half [over two years] and cut shootings by a third,” Esserman said. “We’ve doubled and now tripled the solve rate.”
Asked specifically what he’s doing to keep overtime spending down, Esserman said, “We’re going to have less supervisors and less detectives” working overtime. The priority is on patrol officers, he said.
Esserman said he’s also trying “every trick I know to get federal and state funding.” Some of that money comes by forming task forces, so that state and federal government picks up part of the salary of New Haven cops.
Also, the city needs to have strong police recruitment campaigns. Esserman said. “We’ve never hired in a predictable way.” He said he’d like to do smaller, more regular recruitment drives.
Another way to cut overtime costs, Esserman said, would be to find a new way to do background checks on fire and police department applicants. That duty currently falls to New Haven cops, which Esserman said requires him to spend more on overtime.
Smuts said the city is looking for an outside contractor the city could hire to do background checks, and save the city money. So far, the city’s only found outside firms that just cursory checks, or do far too extensive checks, he said.
That said, Esserman said he aims to come in on budget next June 30. “We’re managing to our number, which is under $5 million.” That means under $100,000 for 52 weeks, he said. “We’re doing pretty good.”
“To the credit of the committee,” the sequestration’s pressure on the chief to reduce overtime “has worked,” Perez said during the committee’s voting session.
Esserman took a moment at the end of the meeting to praise Assistant Chief Denise Blanchard, who covers department administration, and who sat beside him during the meeting. He said that she and the other three chiefs effectively took pay cuts when they moved up, since they work longer hours but don’t earn overtime. He noted that Blanchard skipped a parent-teacher conference Wednesday to appear at the Finance Committee meeting.
Tags: Chief Dean Esserman, Jorge Perez, Finance Committee, Board of Aldermen, police overtime, Yale bomb hoax
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A few Notes:
1. The massive police response to the gunman hoax is what cost the overtime. Somebody made a command decision to militarize the downtown and spend that money on a uncorroborated, un-witnessed non-event.
2. The NHPD budget far exceeds national standards for ratios of cops to residents by almost 30%. At $38.3 million - it includes $5 million of overtime - an increase of 78% from the 2011-12 budget which was $2.8 million.
3. At a NHPD budgeted number of $96,153 per week in overtime - there never should have been any question as to one’s ability to stay within such a large and inflated number.
Not bad, and SWAT finally got paid to train. And just imagine if it had been a real event. All those specially trained officers would have arrived after most of the damage was done. As most mass shootings have shown. To stage these mass numbers of highly trained, heavily armed officers, into a situation as we have seen in past years seems to be based on some belief that a psychotic shooter will conduct an event on a time schedule appropriate to SWAT response. It’s not going to occur that way, so most of these mass response events turn into large scale training exercises, actually they are better than training exercises as they are conducted in and around people. Who are put at risk, for the sake of practice. There is not one tactical supervisor who would call off one of these exercises, even when it becomes crystal clear that a threat does not exist, and the call was an amateurish, or even childish hoax, as the Yale event was.
The headline brings up the amount of overtime to police that was used. Think about the cost to the production of the Yale community, local businesses, people traveling in motor vehicles (including mass transit)who were grossly delayed in pursuit of their lives, under a constitutional guarantee of freedom of movement.
Some of the “leaders” of these LE agencies knew very well at about the one hour mark that it was a hoax, but they continued. Why? Because they are the police, and the rest of the population isn’t. Nothing more, nothing less. The end result speaks loudly to the gross mismanagement of this event, and the flaming egos of those in charge, clouding the little bit of judgment or comment sense they might have.
$90,000…...PER WEEK in Over-time?
That is insane.
x 52 weeks per year, that is $4,680,000. Or, 4.68 million dollars.
This is just for the OVER-TIME.
And, whoops! Already we are informed (thank you New Haven Independent) that one week was more than $60,000 over the 90K allotment.
Remember, if a number is set, that is not a limit…that is the target.
If the Police Chief only winds up having to use, let’s say, $65,000 per week in OVER-TIME average, do you think the NHPD is going to get $90,000 in the next year’s budget?
This is insane, and outrageous.
I am glad to see this story still has some legs.
Any update on an arrest in the hoax caller?
No accountability, nobody getting called out on the carpet. Instead, high praise and sycophancyism everywhere you look:
“The NHPD did a fine job!”
“Well, it was a major inconvenience, but I guess whatever it takes to keep us safe.”
“In this day and age…”
“You never can be too careful….”
“I would rather have to deal with this minor inconvenience [of militarized police trampling the rights of Americans in New Haven, CT, forcing everyone to “shelter in place” at the end of a gun barrel] every single day, if it will help spare one life.”
NHPD you and your brother-agencies were shameful that day. I am not proud at all. I am ashamed for you.