Police Overtime Running 2X Over Budget

Markeshia Ricks photoIn its latest financial report, the city projects that police overtime will top $8 million by the end of the fiscal year — nearly double what the officials had initially budgeted.

That overtime update is one of the key takeaways from the city’s latest monthly financial report, published on Wednesday and covering city finances from the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1 through the end of October. The report also includes details on dramatic across-the-board reductions in crime from 2016 to 2018.

“The end product that we deliver to you is phenomenal and cannot be questioned,” city Police Chief Anthony Campbell said.

The October 2018 financial report projects that the city’s police department will spend $8.4 million on overtime by the time that Fiscal Year 2018-2019 (FY19) ends on June 30, 2019. That’s nearly $4 million above the department’s fiscal year overtime budget of $4.4 million.

The report projects that the department as a whole will end the fiscal year with a $1.6 million cumulative deficit, thanks to over $2 million in projected salary savings due to unfilled budgeted positions.

“That overtime number that we’re given is a completely unrealistic number,” Campbell said about the original $4.4 million budget. “It’s just not a realistic operating number.”

From the very beginning of the fiscal year, Campbell has expressed public frustration over what he sees as unrealistic budgeting by the mayor and by the Board of Alders around actual overtime needs in a department beset with retirements, resignations, and young officers fleeing to better paying jobs in the suburbs.

“Overtime costs at the NHPD are often connected to overall staffing levels,” city spokesperson Laurence Grotheer wrote in an emailed statement. “[T]here are currently one hundred or so police officer vacancies. Shifts are filled at an additional cost to reflect Mayor [Toni]  Harp’s commitment to public safety, while dozens of new recruits are about halfway through their training at the police academy.

“Acting CAO [chief Administrative Officer Sean] Matteson is working with Aldermanic leadership,” he continued, “to identify and transfer funds from other line items in the police department budget to cover these overtime costs.”

Ricks PhotoCampbell said that the department is working with local tax expert and law professor Ed Zelinsky, a former alder, on an internal audit of the department’s finances and operations.

He said that he and his assistant chiefs recently met with the mayor’s office and with Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker-Myers and Majority Leader Richard Furlow about the actual drivers of overtime.

“President Walker-Myers and myself have only met once in an official meeting with the Chief regarding OT,” Furlow told the Independent via text message on Friday. “Chief Campbell gave a report to the Mayor and BOA leadership last month and this month Chief Reyes did the same.”

“Many have been astonished that a lot of what drives overtime are requests from the community to do things for the community that require police presence,” Campbell said, such as working at parades, festivals, and other neighborhood events.

“Let’s come up with a realistic number” based on the department’s actual staffing levels and overtime needs, Campbell said.

He said the department is currently at a moment of staffing “crisis,” poised to lose up to 50 officers to retirement or other jobs between now and the end of the calendar year.

On a positive note, he said, the department is set to graduate 28 cadets from its police academy at the end of March. Those newly minted officers should be patrolling city streets come June. He said that the department will seat another class of around 20 cadets at the end of December, and that it should be seating yet another class this spring.

The monthly budget report also contains a crime comparison table describing drops in nearly every category of crime between 2016 and 2018, looking at Jan.1 through Oct. 31 for each year.

The table shows that murders have dropped from 11 to 9 (18 percent), robberies have dropped from 305 to 237 (29 percent), aggravated assaults dropped from 525 to 371 (29 percent), motor vehicle thefts dropped from 610 to 508 (16 percent), vandalism dropped from 2,234 to 1,679 (25 percent), weapons violations dropped from 372 to 258 (30 percent), and firearm discharges dropped from 124 to 84 (32 percent).

“The community is not being traumatized by serious assaults and deaths” in the street, Campbell said, praising his officers propelling the drop in crime despite budget constraints and a union contract that is still in arbitration. “They’re doing incredible work.”

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 30, 2018  9:18am

It sounds like the actual salaries of police officers need to be much more competitive in order to fill these vacancies. Would it not be cheaper to make the overall numbers better, so that people actually fill the vacancies and stay in those jobs, and then you need less overtime? You’d have to crunch the numbers but you’d have to believe it’s more affordable to pay everyone a higher base rate than just rely on non-stop overtime.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on November 30, 2018  9:29am

I have a simple idea. Put an end to “pension spiking”, (using overtime and extra-duty to pad pensions), and use that savings to pay the newest generation of officers more money.

I think everyone concedes that new officers are getting paid less than other towns. But can we have a fair analysis of the full salary range, in comparison?

Also:

1. Are senior officers still getting full retirement after only 20 years?

2. How much of our current problem is due to the costs of spiked pensions, and the largesse of such early retirements?

posted by: observer1 on November 30, 2018  9:30am

This situation cannot be allowed to continue. The budget is always a guide, but to spent almost double what is budgeted is not acceptable management practice. The chief should be fired for allowing this to happen, and a real manager should be put in place. the decision must be made to either cut the level of service or raise the budget. You cannot just ignore it and hope it goes away. The chain of command above the chief needs to take charge and do something, anything, but not allow this situation to continue.

posted by: opin1 on November 30, 2018  9:49am

“Overtime costs at the NHPD are often connected to overall staffing levels,” Laurence Grotheer wrote. “[T]here are currently one hundred or so police officer vacancies. Shifts are filled at an additional cost to reflect Mayor [Toni]  Harp’s commitment to public safety.

Mayor Harp, in light of our financial situation, why not try (at least temporarily) reducing the number of shifts? and reduce the overall size of the department by closing some of those open positions.  See what happens. Stop the hemorrhaging of money. If it doesn’t work you can always add back more shifts next year or at a later date.

posted by: opin1 on November 30, 2018  9:51am

I should have added, in addition to cutting shifts and positions, raise salaries. Put limits on OT.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 30, 2018  10:03am

Truth in Numbers Notes:

1. The budget is unrealistic from the beginning. If that statement is true, then the budget was predicted on taxpayer fraud. It had a built in deficit. Just like the schools, just like the fire department.

2. The city’s budget document isn’t worth the paper it’s written on - and certainly not the staff time to produce a worthless document.

3. The BOA, President T. Walker and Ald Furlow knew this as did just about everybody else who voted for it.

4. This verifies that what FRAC has said is true.

5. Chief Campbell’s solution however is lame and shows a lack of leadership and inability with his senior staff to properly address this budget - as in, just say no to community events and aldermanic requests. Say no to all that overtime standing around tree cutting, street repairs and what not - where your uniformed officers do absolutely nothing but get paid a lot of money to stand at the side of the road.

6. How much of that overtime went to Mayor Harp’s personal body guard/chauffeur? A lot I’m sure.

7. Change your staffing modules. It’s not working and like the fire department, then requires overtime.

8. The budgeted number of sworm police officers rivals Baltimore on a population model. We don’t need that many cops. At most - 300 and more like 250.

9. You can never compete with the suburbs - nicer cars, nicer communities, fewer calls, better standard of living. Don’t try. Don’t use it as an excuse.

10.  Produce the exact overtime report - with line items - for all that overtime. It was given to alders some months ago. Where is the latest O.T. report by department, by activity? Did Harp order it hidden?

11. Is there anyway this can be blamed on the state? That’s the usual M.O.

posted by: thecove on November 30, 2018  11:20am

observer1

Raise the budget or cut services….hmmmm, sounds quite simple…do we want to raise the budget in a city that already has a substantial deficit?...or do we cut services and go back to 20-25 homicides per year?  You make it sound like an easy decision with an easier remedy.  The fact is we are losing officers at an alarming rate, mostly due to wages. When you are short cops, you pay overtime.  There may be ways to trim the police force, but that would involve assigning more cops to enforcement areas and hence, once again, the death of community policing.  Bottom line…It’s not that simple.  I fully support Chief Campbell.

posted by: Knowthefacts on November 30, 2018  11:23am

Noteworthy..
The officers you see in those tree cutting and construction jobs are being paid by those companies to be out there not the city.  The city charges an extra $10 an hour per cop. So the city makes about 2-3 million dollars a year for the cops being out there. And OT and road jobs are not counted towards the pension of new officers. The last 7-8 classes have a fixed retirement pension. Chief Campbell needs to stop allowing certain administrators to put in multiple OT slips for fake emails sent after their work hours and put in slips for a 1 min phone call they take at home that they are demanding they get so they can tell the chiefs what is going on. Have the on duty supervisor that is working call the chief and save on all the made up OT.

posted by: Dennis Serf on November 30, 2018  11:33am

Chief Campbell: “The end product that we deliver to you is phenomenal and cannot be questioned,”

I guess he already forgot about the open drug dealing on the Green and the 100 overdoses.

And I guess he isn’t counting the dirt bike craze which terrorizes the city streets and parks from March through October.

And I guess the Mayor forgot to include the new OT projection during her latest road show.

Why did the department call on Zelinsky and not the BOA or the mayor-appointed FRAC? Why not make the data public?

It’s not an ‘internal’ audit when you ask someone from OUTSIDE your organization to review the depts finances and operations. It’s an outside audit. And if the Chief and his team can’t figure out what is going on and how to solve it, then he shouldn’t be Chief. 


Dennis Serfilippi
https://newhavenct.squarespace.com/

posted by: Dennis Serf on November 30, 2018  12:38pm

thecove: “Raise the budget or cut services….hmmmm, sounds quite simple…do we want to raise the budget in a city that already has a substantial deficit?...or do we cut services and go back to 20-25 homicides per year?  You make it sound like an easy decision with an easier remedy”

It’s not a binary option. There are many more choices than you suggest. I suspect we probably have enough Police officers, i.e. armed men and women who have gone through 6 months and $60,000 of training. What we need are Peace officers: people who can patrol late at night, respond to non-emergency complaints, enforce quality of living codes, manage traffic, respond to MINOR traffic accidents etc. And these Peace officers should ALL be NEW HAVEN RESIDENTS.

Just like we have too many firemen and not enough EMTs, we have too many Police. Why? Just follow the money.


Dennis Serfilippi
https://newhavenct.squarespace.com/

posted by: thecove on November 30, 2018  3:59pm

Peace Officers?  The union would never allow it, nor should they.  Not a viable option.

posted by: Dennis Serf on November 30, 2018  6:44pm

thecove: the union would never allow it.

That’s the problem. So many of you have been brainwashed into thinking the taxpayers work for the union. It’s OUR money and it’s OUR city. I’m not anti-union but the residents and taxpayers need to come first. The City is on the verge of bankruptcy and it makes no sense to pay people $150k a year to answer a noise complaint.


Dennis Serfilippi
https://newhavenct.squarespace.com/

posted by: JohnDVelleca on November 30, 2018  6:46pm

There is a solution to this problem, it would be redundant for me to state it again.  However, I would never criticize the executive command of the police department because, as “thecove” stated, it’s not that simple.  However, “thecove” is not accurate in stating that there is a nexus between the number of police officers and the number of homicides.  That’s simply rhetoric and has been disproved repeatedly.  For example, Chicago has 44 police officers per 10,000 residents and almost the highest homicide rates in the country (Baltimore is the tops and has a 41:10,000 ratio).  New York also has 44 police officers per 10,000 residents and one of the lowest homicide rates per capita.  There are some studies that make a correlation between the number of police officers and overall crime, but those studies rely on statistics gleaned from grant applications and, let’s just say, sometimes those statistics are a bit skewed to say the least. 

From the New York Times on January 7, 2018:

“Employing fewer officers could free up money for better training, and perhaps also for higher pay.  After all, said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, the police are called on to make life-or-death decisions. “I would rather have highly paid, highly identified, highly skilled police officers who can respond to these crises,” Mr. Wexler said. “I equate what the police do to an emergency room physician.”

The rest of the country gets it, maybe it’s time for New Haven to get up to speed.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on November 30, 2018  6:49pm

AverageTaxpayer, years ago Roland Lemar, then an alderman, proposed ending “pension spiking.” It didn’t go far then; I don’t know it would go any further today.

posted by: Dennis Serf on November 30, 2018  7:30pm

“I equate what the police do to an emergency room physician.”

Exactly. And right now the emergency room physician is spending a good amount of time walking around the waiting room and also treating the common cold. Those tasks should be given to someone else.

posted by: Dennis Serf on November 30, 2018  7:41pm

“I equate what the police do to an emergency room physician.

Exactly. Right now the emergency room physician is spending time walking around the waiting room, treating the common cold , driving some patients around.  and even tending to cats and dogs. Those tasks should be handed over to someone with less training and less pay.

In fact, what you really have at any one time is more like 100 emergency room physicians on staff at all times, regardless of whether there is an influenza outbreak, a natural disaster, or a popular holiday like July4th.

posted by: Knowthefacts on November 30, 2018  10:17pm

Dennis is just another police hater. So your so called Peace officers…what would be their training, their rights or power to enforce your so called minor traffic accidents. And what kind of criminal history would they be allowed to have and how would you legally only hire a New Haven resident? And last time I checked a grade officer makes $68,000 and if an officer is making better pay it’s due to them working OT or extra duty which the city does not pay for. The OT money is smoke and mirrors by the city. If the city set a budget for say 450 cops but only has 350 then that salary and benefits would be being used to cover the OT. But the city set the police budget for the officers currently working so the covering of all shifts now comes out of an OT budget.

posted by: Christian Bruckhart on December 1, 2018  10:45am

Are there efficiencies in staffing levels that can be sought to help mitigate overtime? Of course. Any large organization is looking to do that and you’ll see more of that soon.  However, it is an undeniable fact that we are understaffed and “efficiencies” can only go so far; someone still needs to answer the radio and investigate crimes and we’re running out of people. It will be getting worse before it gets better and a big reason people are leaving is the low salary and deficient benefits. To Noteworthy’s point 9: space is limited but here are some major city officer salaries - Austin $96k, NYC $85k, Las Angeles $74k, Boston $88k. Yale $97k (sorry, I had to include them.) If you want good cops who will stay here, pay them.

The whole rationale for “pension spiking” was a measure on the city’s part to offset the terrible pay. It was eliminated 6 years ago and pensions are now capped. But there was never a commensurate rise in pay to compensate. So now it’s the worst of both worlds: low pay AND slashed benefits.

While I can appreciate Mr. Serifillipi’s points about police responding to BS complaints, the PD used to have a supervisor assigned to the communications department to weed out nonsense calls. It was bargained away by the city in an effort to save money. Now we get to respond to a panoply of calls that don’t aren’t police related.

A “peace officer” sounds great…until something bad happens. That’s dangerous to the point of being a liability. To use the ED physician analogy, how many people have gone in with the sniffles and walked out days later after an operation to avoid a stroke? There’s a reason ED techs don’t diagnose illnesses. Even “minor” police calls can escalate when people with arrest warrants and guns are involved and those shouldn’t be handled by unarmed members of the Parking Authority.

Finally, the idea that an officer’s address dictates the level of service they provide is asinine. Please stop pushing that fallacy.

posted by: Dennis Serf on December 1, 2018  1:37pm

knowthefacts: “Dennis is just another police hater”. Wrong! My family and I have always supported the police and have made many contributions to police organizations, injured and fallen police.


knowthefacts: “I checked a grade officer makes $68,000”. The real number to look at is something those of us in the private sector refer to as Total Comp, short for Total Compensation. You need to take the $68K, add in medical (It costs $30K a year for health insurance for a family) and add in the cost of pension and post retirement benefits. Someone who retires after 20 years will receive a pension and medical for another 40 years. So, $68K plus $30K = $98K per year. Now double or triple that number to include retirement. You conveniently left out the retirement piece. Just as our elected officials do - and that’s why the pension funds are woefully underfunded.

One last point: Any time those of us who raise the issue of police/firemen OT, pensions, work rules etc, the knee-jerk, predictable response is to attack us as police haters, unamerican, socialists, etc. The name calling isn’t going to stop us. This is a major issue for those of us paying the freight, the New Haven Taxpayers, and we won’t be silenced. This is a difficult conversation, but one we need to have for the sake of everyone, including the pensioners who will have no pension if the City continues on it’s current trajectory. 


Dennis Serfilippi
https://newhavenct.squarespace.com/

posted by: JohnDVelleca on December 1, 2018  3:18pm

@knowthefacts

    True and not true at the same time.  The budgeting issue is much more complex than what we lay out here in the comments section as rudimentary solutions.  The number of “budgeted” police officers hasn’t changed dramatically in a long time.  So, it’s not accurate to say that the city budgets for the actual number of active officers at any given time, that would be impossible.  However, you are correct in saying that any excess money in the salary line is not available and that’s because it’s already been, um, let’s say, “maneuvered.”  The vacancies are held in the budget with the funding of $1.00, while the money that would be used to completely fund that position goes somewhere else.  Sometimes it does work it’s way into the overtime line, other times it doesn’t.  It can really end up anywhere in the general fund, there are not stipulations.

    Like I always note when discussing this topic, there is a solution.  But, the solution is not fun and will make many people angry.  Furthermore, it would take being implemented by someone with a great deal of fortitude and no concern about winning an election or maintaining their appointment.  Like I said, not as easy as it seems.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 1, 2018  8:44pm

You can cut down overtime in some cases by doing what some other cities do and that is have a auxiliary police force.

Who are the volunteer auxiliary police?

The NYPD’s auxiliary police program is the largest auxiliary police program in the United States, with thousands volunteer officers contributing more than one million hours of public service each year. Auxiliary officers are trained to observe and report conditions requiring the services of the regular police. Whenever possible, they assist in non-enforcement and non-hazardous duties.

Duties of an auxiliary police officer

The following are some ways that the auxiliary police assist the Police Department:

Patrol housing developments, residential, and commercial areas
Patrol subway entrances and stations
Maintain order at parades, festivals, street fairs, and other special events
Patrol houses of worship

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/careers/human-resources-info/auxiliary-police.page

West Haven Public Service Officers

Public Service Officers serve part-time and are appointed by the Chief of Police to supplement the regular police force.  They assist the West Haven Police Department in carrying out its mission by fulfilling roles that do not require a gun and law enforcement arrest powers.They assist regular police officers at accident and incident scenes; observe and supervise people at special events; provide patrol services at assigned areas such as parades, concerts, and firework displays; interact with the public; man traffic control posts on Sundays for church traffic and other non-enforcement duties.

http://www.whpd.com/?page_id=3924


Assist in crime prevention activities
Perform traffic control at motor vehicle accidents and fire scenes
Perform various other non-enforcement duties

posted by: LookOut on December 2, 2018  7:28pm

threefifths…..your idea sounds great.  Would love to see New Haven try something like this.  My fear is that the union will scream.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 2, 2018  11:42pm

posted by: LookOut on December 2, 2018 7:28pm

threefifths…..your idea sounds great.  Would love to see New Haven try something like this.  My fear is that the union will scream.

The union would not scream.It does not stop overtime.It just cut down overtime in some cases.