The Chicago Police Department’s management of overtime is such a jumble that somebody should call the cops.
Except that might lead to police officers working overtime even more, further straining the city’s finances, and making it all the more obvious that oversight of the department is inadequate.
Then again, when a single police officer can pull in $336,000 in overtime pay in just 2 1/2 years, whatever that cop was doing, who needs further proof of the waste of your taxpayer dollars?
A report Tuesday from city Inspector General Joe Ferguson concluded the police department failed to properly monitor $575 million of overtime over the past six years to ensure that no one was abusing the system.
In some cases, officers approved their own overtime, the inspector general found, and in other cases officers approved each other’s overtime. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the department didn’t even record why the overtime was needed, a violation of written policy, or somebody just jotted down generic “reason codes.”
Ferguson also found instances of “trolling” — jumping in for overtime even when other officers are available — and “paper jumping,” in which officers unnecessarily add their names to a report so they can get overtime going to court. Where were the managers?
Also adding to overtime costs is a police contract that gives officers a minimum of three hours of OT for “as little as 15 minutes of actual work,” a guarantee that was not limited to court time and call backs, which Ferguson said could have cost up to $197,895 in unwarranted overtime pay.
For years, city officials have argued that taxpayers save money by paying overtime to beef up staffing instead of hiring more cops, which would mean paying more in benefits, including pensions. You might think, listening to City Hall, that this was efficient management.
But $575 million in OT in six years? On the face of it, that’s nuts.
When Rahm Emanuel first was elected mayor in 2011, he vowed to beef up the undermanned police force, which even then relied too much on overtime. OT is expensive, wears officers out, and is open to abuses. But six years later, the mayor continues to rely too much on overtime. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that the city was on a pace to spend $200 million on overtime for this year, though it has budgeted for only $75 million.
Police do a hard job. They deserve to be well compensated. But a cop who works extraordinarily long hours to soak up every last OT dollar can’t possibly be rested, fresh and fully effective.
And, for the money, you deserve better.
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