For the first time in years, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is placing a “cap” on how much overtime police officers can work in a week.
Last year, APD spent $11.5 million paying sworn police overtime. The city budgeted $9 million in police overtime in the 2019 fiscal year, which ends in June 30, 2019.
According to an APD spokesman, there are nearly a dozen different types of overtime programs within the department. The programs where APD Officers can earn overtime include holiday tac-plan initiatives, checkpoints, extended training, special events like the Balloon Fiesta and security detail for high profile dignitary visits such as the President or Vice President, all where the City pays the overtime worked.
Another overtime program is “chief’s overtime” where private businesses pay to have an officer on site but where the APD Chief selects the APD Officer to do the overtime. APD charges the business and then pays the officer. “Chief’s Overtime” has been controversial with arguments made by police oversight civilian advocates that the city is subsidizing private businesses over the best interest of areas of the city with high crime rates.
Last year, more than 100 businesses took part in chief’s overtime, and for the last 16 months APD officers were allowed to work as much chief’s overtime as they wanted. Not anymore according to an APD Public Information Officer.
According to an APD Spokesperson, through March of 2019, APD police officers will only be allowed to work 25 hours of chief’s overtime per week. APD will also be increasing what is being charge to private businesses for “Chief’s Overtime” to take into account recent APD pay raises. The hourly charge for Chief’s Overtime has to be comparable to an APD Officer’s hourly pay working for the department.
It is the first time in nearly a decade APD has increased its rates for its chief’s overtime program.
HIGHEST PAID CITY HALL EMPLOYEES ARE POLICE OFFICERS
APD Patrol Officers First Class earning excessive overtime is nothing new, has been going on for years and has been common knowledge.
There are approximately 5,000 full time city hall employees. A review of the city’s 250 top earners in 2018 reveals that 140 are sworn police officers working for APD, mostly patrol officers first class and 40 are employed by Albuquerque Fire and Rescue. The 140 top wage city hall wage earners employed by the Albuquerque Police Department include patrol officers first class, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders the deputy chiefs, and the chief with annual pay ranging from $101,000 a year up to $192,937 a year.
(See City of Albuquerque website for full list of 250 top city wage earners).
Five (5) APD Senior Patrol Officers First Class are listed in the top 250 city wage earners for 2018 as being paid $166,692, $163,223, $160,692, $152,876 and $151,313 respectfully making them the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 11th highest paid employees at city hall.
The amounts paid in excess of $100,000 a year to patrol officers first class can be attributed mostly to overtime pay and “time and a half” paid. The second highest paid individual at city hall in 2018 was Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair who was paid $169,556. Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael is the 4th highest paid city hall employee and was paid $165,524 in 2018.The 9th highest paid city hall employee was APD Chief Michael Geier who was paid $159,513.00 in 2018.
Mayor Tim Keller is paid $125,000 a year and is the 57th highest paid city hall employee, and he works 24/7 as an elected official.
MOST EGREGIOUS OVERTIME PAID
According to the listing of the 250 top paid city hall employees for 2018, APD Sergeant Simon Drobik, one of the many APD Public Information Officers, was paid $192,937 making him the number one top paid city hall employee for 2018. Drobik’s base pay is $31.50 per hour or $65,520 a year. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year X $31.50 = $65,520.)APD claims that APD Public Information Officer Simon Drobik works full-time as PIO during weekdays as his primary assignment, working 7 days a week, and he also works as a patrol officer entitling him to be paid for that position as well, holding down and being paid for two positions. Drobik regularly reports having worked more than 100 hours per week, according to his pay stubs.
The police union contract also entitles a police officer to be paid time and a half when overtime is worked on a given day.
COURT APPEARANCES SOURCE OF OVERTIME
Historically, APD Patrol Officers First Class and Sergeants who work or are assigned to DWI or issue traffic citations are the ones that get paid extensive amount of overtime. Under the union contract APD Patrol Offers First Class get paid a minimum of two hours in overtime pay at time and a half when they appear in court on their days off for arraignment or trials, which is usually the case for DWI prosecutions.
DWI’s arrests are usually made during a police officer’s shift at night, but the arraignments and trials occur during the day in Metro Court entitling the officer to bill the hours of overtime per arraignment, plea, or trial. Arraignments are scheduled in Metro Court in mass and usually take no more than 15 minutes per individual person arraigned on charges.However, Police officers are required to wait prolong periods of time for cases to be called, most notably DWI cases.
The Traffic Court Arraignment program was established over 16 years ago where Assistant City Attorneys and paralegals are assigned to handle arraignments and plea agreements in traffic citation cases, thereby eliminating APD officers appearing in court on traffic cases. The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office also has a Metro Court Division with upwards of 22 full time Assistant District Attorneys.
CITY INTERNAL AUDIT FOUND APD OVERTIME ABUSES
A March, 2017 a city internal audit of APD’s overtime spending found police officers taking advantage of a system that allows them to accumulate excessive overtime at the expense of other city departments. During the last 9 years, the Albuquerque Police Department has consistently gone over its overtime budget by millions. In fiscal year 2016, APD was funded for $9 million for over time but APD but actually spent $13 million.
A city internal audit report released in March, 2017 revealed that the Albuquerque Police Department spent over $3.9 million over its $9 million “overtime” budget.
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
It’s about time and long overdue that APD places a cap on all police overtime and it should be made permanent.
APD Public Information Officer Gilbert Gallegos in announcing APD placing a cap on overtime, had this to say:
“In the past it’s been taken for granted that in the end, we have as much money as we need for overtime, but you know that’s going to change”.
Gallego’s comment reflects the years of sure arrogance and the sense of entitlement to overtime APD has had that ultimately was at the expense of other city departments and city employees.
While APD starts putting caps on overtime for sworn officers, APD needs to do the same with APD Spokesman Sgt. Simon Dolbeck and release him from his duties as an APD Public Information Officer. Normally, Public Information Officers for APD do not carry any kind of caseload, make no arrests, do not wear an APD uniform and do not appear in court. APD Public Information Officers do not need to be sworn police officers and should not be paid an hourly wage of a sworn police with the duties assumed by citizen staff under the direction and supervision of the Mayor’s Office and the Mayor’s Public Information Officer.
All Public Information Officers for the City should be made at will employees and paid a set yearly salary with no overtime paid and work out of the office of the Mayor under the direction of the administration.
APD Sergeants and Lieutenants are supervisors and managers and should be removed from the police union bargaining unit and be prevented from being paid time and a half for overtime. When APD exceeds its overtime budget, it is to the detriment of other city departments and other city employees in that the funding must be found somewhere else, either by taking it from other departments and programs, budget cuts or cost saving measurements.
From a personnel management standpoint, when you have a select few that are taking the lion’s share of overtime, it causes moral problems with the rest. Excessive overtime paid is a red flag for abuse of the system, mismanagement of police resources and the lack of personnel.
APD has added approximately 100 police officers last year as a result of increases in pay and an aggressive recruitment program. APD is projected to have upwards of 980 sworn police by July 1, 2019 and overtime should be coming down. Consecutive shifts or excessive overtime for any police officer can lead to extreme fatigue, emotional burnout and reduce an officer’s alertness and response times and reflexes that can endanger lives and public safety.
A complete restructuring of APD hourly wages to base salaries should be implemented. The 25 hour a week “cap” on the amount overtime a sworn police officer can be paid needs to be made permanent.
APD needs to establish an overtime protocol that is fair and equitable for all sworn personnel to make available overtime to more sworn police officers in the department. APD should do away with hourly wage and time and a half for overtime for sworn police and implement a salary structure based on steps and years of service. A system of overtime bonuses to be paid at the end of the year for accumulated increments of overtime can and should be implemented. Shift time to work would remain the same, but if more time is needed to complete work load, the employee works it for the same salary with no overtime and a modification of shift times for court appearances.
APD Patrol Officers First Class who handle DWI during nighttime shifts should be required to change their shift times to daytime shifts when the arraignments and trials occur to prevent overtime pay. As an alternative to DWI arraignment, the City Attorney’s Office should explore the possibility of expanding or modifying the Metro Traffic Arraignment Program with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office assisting to include not just traffic citations but DWI arraignments to eliminate the need for APD officers to appear at such arraignments.
Salaries and step increase take away inflating overtime and motivates employees to get more done within the allotted shift or modification of shift times. Until the APD salary structure is changed, APD will always have patrol officers first class making two to four times their base salary and emotional burnout will be the norm endangering public safety.