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Police Overtime Costs Renew Call For Hiring More New Cops

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 7, 2014 10:05PM

Photo credit: Chicajogian

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy have relied significantly on police overtime pay to reduce the homicide rate and violent crime in the city last year over a national headline grabbing, bloody 2012. The Sun-Times shows how heavy Emanuel has leaned on overtime pay to do so in today’s paper and the numbers have renewed calls for the city to hire more cops and brought concerns about burnout among the Police Department’s rank and file to the to the forefront once again.

The city spent $103 million on police overtime pay last year. By comparison, Chicago spent $197 million in overtime pay for the rest of the city’s workforce in 2013. Offering police overtime pay was one of the main carrots dangled in front of the faces of police to patrol designated “hot zones” of high crime areas of Chicago known to be homes for gang activity. Both Emanuel and McCarthy insisted the overtime costs were worth it if it led to a reduction in crime but critics of the plan in City Council have repeatedly called for hiring up to 1,000 more police officers only to have Emanuel and McCarthy rebuff them at every turn. Chicago's 2014 budget calls for even more overtime pay for police.

City Budget Director Alexandra Holt told the Sun-Times the overtime pay is worth it and that $39 million in police overtime costs puts 200 officers on the street, versus 150 newly monted officers with health insurance and pension benefits. But does this cost the taxpayer more in the end? The Sun-Times’ analysis found Lisa Jamison, who works in the city’s 911 call center, earned $122,088 on top of her annual $80,136 salary and the last time we checked the 911 center isn’t a high crime hot spot. Russell Modjeski, a communication specialist in the Police Department, earned $99,567 in overtime on top of his $66,552 annual salary. Sgt. Louis Daray, who earns nearly $106,000 a year, raked in $95,010 in overtime.

A total of 107 police officers earned more than $50,000 in overtime pay.

And the city isn’t filling all the vacancies at the Office of Emergency Management and Communications where there 21 people left last year and there are a total of 28 vacancies. That’s even after hiring 32 new positions last year. The Sun-Times notes there are seven new police communication officers jobs slated in this year’s budget.

The numbers strengthened calls by aldermen and other opponents of the overtime pay approach to find a long-term solution to addressing staffing needs while fighting crime. Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden called the reliance on overtime “a Band-Aid approach to crime-fighting” while Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) said the city needs to make sure the Police Department is both well-staffed and well-rested.

“The policy needs to change. Any management consultant can tell you that, to depend on overtime of this magnitude is unhealthy. You’ve got the issue of burnout, stress and long hours,” Munoz said.