City on track to pay $100 million in police overtime this year

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Chicago is on track to pay $100 million in police overtime this year — $30 million over budget — the city’s budget director told the City Council on Monday during the first day of hearings on Mayor Emanuel’s proposed 2016 budget.

For more than six hours, aldermen got their first chance to ask the city’s budget staff about 2016 revenue and spending plans, nearly a week after Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed his budget, which includes a $588 million property tax increase. All told, Emanuel has submitted a $712 million package of tax and fee hikes, which includes a $9.50-a-month garbage collection fee.

About $60 million of the $100 million overtime police figure is going to regular overtime, tour of duty and court overtime. The remaining $40 million is associated with overtime for crime hot spots, city Budget Director Alexandra Holt said. The city had allotted $70 million for this year’s police overtime budget.

The city has spent $134 million in overtime this year through July, including police overtime. The Super Bowl blizzard and other snowy days contributed to much of that overtime to pay workers in the departments of Streets and Sanitation, Transportation and Water, according to mayoral spokeswoman Molly Poppe.

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Those new statistics came after Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) asked the city’s budget director and budget staff about the number of police officers retiring this year, and whether CPD is on track to pay $100 million in overtime.

Beale questioned whether that $40 million is “efficient.”

“Knowing that murders are up. Crimes are up. We’re still paying $40 million in overtime?” Beale asked.

Holt said she’d leave crime statistics to Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy but said the city can buy more policing hours with overtime than by hiring additional officers and paying them straight hours.

“Ten million dollars worth of overtime provides about 150,000 hours of police time, whereas straight time only gives you about 90,000,” Holt said.

Holt said the overtime figure would go down for hot spots under a plan to put more police officers onto the streets. The mayor’s office last week announced the police department is reassigning 319 sworn officers from administrative positions to boost manpower on the streets without breaking the bank. Those sworn officers include nurses, detention aides, property custodians and others whose jobs will be filled by lower-paid civilians.

Even so, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) still wondered if hiring more police officers is the better option.

“These are high-impact areas, high-stress jobs. … I think the question again has to be can that money be used to hire more officers so we can put more officers on the street?”

The garbage fee is also weighing heavily on the minds of some aldermen. At least three — Beale, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd) — on Monday said they may not support the garbage fee. Beale told Holt they should put the garbage fee “back in the garbage because it’s going to have a negative impact.”

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