The Chicago Police Department is on pace to set another record for overtime spending in 2017 — despite a two-year hiring surge tailor-made to keep pace with attrition and bolster the force by 970 police officers.
Records released Monday show that Chicago Police officers racked up $30.9 million in overtime during the cold weather, traditionally the lower crime months of January, February and March alone.
That’s a whopping 26.6 percent increase from the $24.4 million spent on overtime during the same period last year, when the Police Department set a new record for overtime spending. The Police Department’s budget includes $75 million for overtime for the entire year.
Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the first-quarter surge in overtime spending was used to “drive double-digit reductions in overall shootings” and to increase murder arrests by 10 percent and arrests for gun-related crime by more than 30 percent.
“Ninety percent of the overtime spent in the first quarter is directly attributable to strategic violence reduction efforts, including organized crime enforcement missions, targeted violent offender raids and District patrol initiatives,”
Guglielmi wrote in an email.
The Chicago Fire Department also got off to another record start, with $13.9 million in first-quarter overtime spending. That’s up 12 percent from the $12.4 million in overtime spending during the same period last year.
The Office of Emergency Management and Communications, which operates Chicago’s 911 emergency center, was up ever so slightly from $2.6 million in overtime spending this year compared to $2.5 million during the first quarter last year.
What’s troubling about the surge in overtime spending is that it occurred at a time when the police academy was churning out a virtual conveyor belt of classes needed to comply with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s two-year hiring surge.
Emanuel spent years arguing that overtime was a more flexible and cost-effective substitute for police hiring because the city doesn’t have to bear the cost of pensions and benefits for new officers.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Chicago Police Department spent a record $116.1 million on overtime in 2015 — up 17.2 percent from the previous year — to mask a manpower shortage that has mushroomed under Emanuel with police retirements outpacing hiring by 975 officers.
In late September 2016, the mayor reversed course. Days before a major policy address on the outbreak of violence, Emanuel unveiled plans to fill hundreds of police vacancies and still add 970 police officers.
Over a two-year period, the Police Department has promised to add 516 patrol officers, 92 field-training officers, 112 sergeants, 50 lieutenants and 200 detectives.
Last year, the Police and Fire Departments together amassed a record $193.5 million in total overtime.
That includes $143 million for the Police Department alone, an increase of 23 percent from the record total of the year before.
Most of the police overtime stemmed from the department’s response to a 60 percent surge in homicides and shootings in 2016 compared to the previous year.
In July 2016 alone, the police department paid out $21.6 million in overtime, more than double June spending.
The vast majority of overtime tied to the Cubs’ march to their first World Series title in 108 years also came in the police department: $17.2 million.
The Fire Department spent $50.5 million on overtime — 66 percent over its allotted budget for 2016 — with the largest totals going to paramedics.