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OT overload: Some cops get more overtime pay than annual salary

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy  |  Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy | Sun-Times file photo

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Updated: March 8, 2014 6:33AM



Eight Chicago Police officers were among City Hall’s top 20 overtime earners in 2013 — supplementing their annual salaries by more than $78,990 — renewing debate about police hiring and officer burnout.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said he expected to spend $93 million on overtime in 2013 after flooding 20 of Chicago’s most violent crime zones with officers working overtime.

The actual total was $103 million, nearly half the $197 million Mayor Rahm Emanuel spent on overtime for the entire city workforce.

Aldermen condemned police overtime as “out of control,” fretted about officers working around the clock for “blood money” and pressed for the hiring of up to 1,000 police officers, only to have their demands squelched by the mayor’s City Council allies.

Now, the city’s annual overtime report shows the extent to which Emanuel has relied on overtime as a cost-saving management strategy and how big a strain that has placed on individual police officers.

Alexandra Holt, the city’s budget director said: “The city monitors overtime on a regular basis to assure that it is used in an appropriate and fiscally responsible manner. Overtime can be a cost effective management tool that allows the City to maintain services most efficiently.” She added that $39 million of CPD overtime buys 200 officers on the street while the same dollar amount only buys 150 full-time officers.

The top 20 overtime earners include eight police officers who supplemented their annual paychecks by more than $78,990.

They are led by Sgt. Louis Daray, who raked in $95,010 in overtime, nearly doubling his annual salary of $105,864.

In all, 107 police officers collected overtime paychecks that topped $50,000; 1,186 got more than $25,000 in extra pay; and 3,790 officers earned more than $10,000 extra.

Lisa Jamison, a police communications operator at the city’s 911 center, was Chicago’s top overtime earner with $122,088 in extra pay that dwarfed her $80,136-a-year salary, city data show. Police communications officer Russell Modjeski was No. 4 on the list, with $99,567 in overtime, eclipsing his $66,552 annual paycheck.

Melissa Stratton, spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said in an email that 32 people were hired last year but there are 28 vacancies because 21 people left. There are seven new police communication officers positions in the this year’s budget.

She said the OEMC follows collective-bargaining rules for overtime and employees may volunteer for overtime up to a lmit of 16 hours in a 24-hour period. Stratton said call takers and dispatchers are monitored to identify those who “display signs of experiencing stress or fatigue.”

Also among the top 10 overtime earners are two $99,535-a-year fire boat marine pilots — William Schmidt and Edward Popelas — with overtime paychecks of $104,614 and $100,823 respectively. Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said in an email that the department lost two boat pilots last year, and the positions require training and certification. He said the department has hired replacements, and that will eliminate the overtime this year.

Three deputy district fire chiefs landed in the top 20 with overtime paychecks that topped $80,000. Langford said several deputy district chiefs retired in 2013, and their reponsibilities have to be covered while the positions are filled. “This overtime is paid at a straight rate, not time-and-a-half, which means the overtime is not costing additional money,” he said.

McCarthy has argued repeatedly that it is “cheaper to pay a police officer overtime than it is to hire a fully-loaded-with-health benefits-and-pay officer.”

But after learning Thursday about the amount of overtime earned by individual officers, Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) said, “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. We need to make sure our Police Department is well-staffed and well-rested.”

Pat Camden, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, reiterated his contention that McCarthy’s Violence Reduction Initiative is a “Band-Aid approach to crime-fighting.” That’s even though the hefty overtime paychecks are not confined to officers working that program.

“If you have somebody putting in that amount [$80,000] of overtime, it’s gross mismanagement. It’s not safe to work those kinds of hours. It’s not good for public safety,” Camden said.

Chicago Police spokesman Adam Collins said four of the top ten overtime earners work for the department. They are investigators who incurred overtime as part of their duties, he said in an email. “Investigators frequently earn overtime for participation in court proceedings, surveillance or continuation of cases,” Collins said.

Emanuel campaigned on a promise to hire an additional 1,000 police officers, then refined the pledge after taking office to 1,000 more “cops on the beat.”

He honored half the revised promise by disbanding specialized units and reassigning those officers to beat patrol and found the other half by reassigning desk cops to street duty.

The mayor and McCarthy have repeatedly vowed to hire enough new officers this year to keep pace with attrition and retain an authorized strength of 12,538. But records show they have not been able to keep pace with the number of police retirements.

During City Council budget hearings, Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said the $43 million in Chicago Fire Department overtime stemmed from a hiring freeze that allowed the city to resolve two hiring discrimination lawsuits he inherited.

One was filed by black firefighters bypassed by the city’s discriminatory handling of a 1995 firefighters entrance exam. The other was filed by women who challenged a test of physical abilities.

But that does not begin to explain why the three deputy district fire chiefs each collected more than $80,000 in overtime pay.

Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford had no immediate comment.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that fire communications officers at the 911 center have been shifted from rotating to fixed shifts to speed response times and reduce $9.2 million in annual overtime, despite warnings of employee burnout that could trigger dispatch “mistakes.”

It was not clear what, if anything, 911 center chief Gary Schenkel intends to do about the rampant overtime on the police communications side.

Email: fspielman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @fspielman



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