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After early success, Chicago Police overtime expenses are rising again

Police vehicle at crime scene

After some success in curtailing overtime expenses earlier in 2018, the tally is again on the rise. | Sun-Times staff

Overtime spending in the Chicago Police Department is rising again after a 30 percent drop in first-quarter spending driven by tighter controls aimed at holding supervisors accountable.

From January through April, Chicago police officers were paid $29.7 million in overtime, down from $42.1 million during the same period a year ago.

But the trend was short-lived, according to records released in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by the Chicago Sun-Times.

They show that police overtime for the four-month period ending in August was $50.9 million, a 71 percent increase from first-quarter spending.

In May, an additional $7.1 million was spent. That includes the 1,000 moonlighting officers assigned to keep a lid on violence over Memorial Day.

That was followed by $19.7 million in overtime spending in June, $12.9 million in July and $11 million in August, records show.

July overtime was a problem because the July 4 holiday fell mid-week, followed by a weekend demonstration led by Rev. Michael Pfleger marching arm-in-arm with Johnson that shut down the inbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway.

In early August, a weekend bloodbath in Chicago left 71 people shot, 12 of them dead.

To prevent another violent weekend, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson temporarily reassigned 600 additional police officers to Chicago’s five most violent districts and declared plans to break up large, unsanctioned street parties.

The new overtime figures make it clear that the department will once again blow through its $95 million overtime budget.

That’s particularly true, given that the department canceled days off and put officers on 12-hour shifts to bolster the force by up to 4,000 officers — enough to handle an adverse reaction that never came to the verdict in the trial of Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one count for every one of the shots that he fired into the body of the black teenager.

The demonstrations that did occur turned out to be more like a celebration and a call to further political action than a show of anger.

The records show that 111 police officers each raked in more than $30,000 in overtime between April 1 and Aug. 31.

Thirty-two of those officers were paid more than $40,000 in overtime. Six got more than $50,000.

The overtime king of the second quarter was Edward Heerdt, a police officer assigned as a detective, with $60,266 in overtime pay.

Other top overtime earners included: Sgt. John Dardell ($55,778); Sgt. Brian Forberg ($55,273); Officer Luis Molina ($54,272); Officer Michael Leverett ($52,433); Sgt. Henry McNichols ($51,390); Sgt. John Hroma Jr.($49,528); Sgt. Cynthia Nichols ($49,243); Officer Quincy Percy ($48,830); Officer Trung Nguyen ($46,956); and Sgt. Vance Bonner ($46,855).

Top earners also include: Sgt. John L. Foster ($46,550); Lt. Harry Jozefowicz ($46,473); Anthony Noradin, a police officer assigned as a detective ($45,823); Lt. James Cascone ($44,084); Jose Castaneda ($44,120) and Lyzette David ($41,685), both described as police officers assigned as detectives.

Kristen Cabanban, a spokesperson for the city’s Office Budget and Management, insisted that CPD has “continued the trend of reducing the amount of overtime used, which began in the first quarter.”

She noted that police overtime spending is “down 27 percent compared to last year,” thanks to updated general orders, a department-wide training bulletin, refresher training for timekeepers and overtime management workshops for command staff.

Testifying earlier this week at City Council hearings on Emanuel’s final budget, Budget Director Samantha Fields said reining in overtime abuses remains a constant focus at CPD.

She told aldermen high-level conversations are being held to hold district commanders and deputy chiefs accountable for overtime spending on a monthly basis. Fields also disclosed that CPD will not be fully-integrated into Chicago’s Automated Time and Attendance System until mid-2019.

In July, police employees began electronic swiping once-a-day. Those earning overtime are already required to swipe twice.

Last fall, Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded that Chicago was wasting millions on police overtime because of “inefficient management” that failed to control costs, eliminate fraud or prevent officer fatigue.

Ferguson’s allegations about a “culture of abuse” were underscored by schemes he claimed were so prevalent, there are names for them: “trolling,” “paper jumping,” “lingering” and “DUI guys.”

Ferguson’s poster child for a “DUI guy” was an officer who made 56 DUI arrests, presumably so he could appear in court and get the overtime.

After examining police overtime from 2014 through the first six months of 2016, Ferguson found CPD’s operational controls full of holes or virtually nonexistent.

The alleged failures went well beyond the department’s painfully slow switch from paper-based to electronic timekeeping.

Management controls at the city’s largest department “do not adequately prevent unnecessary overtime, deter abuse … or ensure overtime is paid in compliance” with CPD policy, Ferguson said then.

Neither are there policies in place to control costs, prevent “excessive overtime” that leads to officer fatigue or “detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse,” Ferguson said.

At a time when private companies and nearly every other city department has long since switched to electronic timekeeping, the Police Department was still stuck in the Dark Ages, spending $7.2 million a year on 61 “time-keepers” and an unknown number of sworn officers assigned to “time-keeping and data entry,” the inspector general said.

Johnson considered the audit so damaging to the department’s credibility, he rushed back to work to respond to the findings, even though he was still recovering from a kidney transplant.

Johnson argued then that the strategy of using overtime to mask a manpower shortage had “run its course.”

He promised to hold supervisors accountable for overtime and conduct random audits to make certain they do. He also vowed to revise department directives governing overtime that have not been updated since 1994.

After overtime declined during the first quarter, Johnson said the effort to rein in overtime had been helped by strategic deployment centers — using predictive analytics, ShotSpotter technology and new high-definition surveillance cameras.

But he said, “I will not police with a checkbook. If we have to utilize it, then we will.”