Recently, APD Deputy Chief Mike Smathers of the APD Administrative Services Bureau announced to the Civilian Police Oversight Board that APD has submitted the long-anticipated proposal to the Mayor’s Office to reduce overtime spending within APD. The proposal includes capping officer’s total number of overtime hours at 25 hours per week. Currently, there is a cap of 25 hours on Chief’ Overtime pay and no cap on the other overtime police officers can work.
On January 24, 2019 , the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) said it was placing a “cap” on how much Chief’s Overtime police officers can work in a week. “Chief’s overtime” is 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 a time APD officers were allowed to work as much chief’s overtime as they wanted.
In the 2018-2019 fiscal year which ended June 30, 2019, APD spent over $17 million on overtime which was nearly double the $9 million budgeted. For the new fiscal year that started July 1, 2019, the overtime appropriation was increased to over $11.4 million. According to an APD spokesman, that still will not be enough.
APD POLICE OFFICER OVERTIME PROPOSAL
There are nearly a dozen different types of overtime programs within the APD. The categories where APD Officers can earn overtime include holiday work, tac-plan initiatives, training, call outs, calls for service, special events, administrative work, investigations, and court appearances. DWI check points and special events like the Balloon Fiesta and security detail for high profile dignitary visits are all events that require an extensive amount of overtime. The police union contract entitles a police officer to be paid time and a half when overtime is worked on any given day or week.
The new proposal is to mandate the standard 40 hour work and once the 40 hours are worked allow 25 hours overtime at time and a half for a total of 65 hours. The 25 hours of overtime will include chief’s overtime, training, administrative duties and calls for service. The 25 hours of overtime will not include time officers spend in court for the reason such time cannot be controlled by APD.
According to Deputy Chief Smathers, the overtime policy will rearrange training and special event schedules to be more efficient. APD’s goal is to have the overtime policy implemented by the end of August. The Mayor’s office and the City’s Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair must approve the plan. Once approved, it will be implemented with a special order issued by APD Chief Geier. The new overtime policy must also be reviewed by the Independent Federal Court Monitor appointed by the Federal Court to oversee the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA).
Smathers said the new overtime policy does not focus on overtime accrued during calls for service or court hearings, saying they are very unpredictable. The overtime policy instead looks at the time officers spend doing administrative work, training and community and special events. The goal is to eliminate training overtime through better scheduling and shift adjustments. According to Smathers, APD is developing a data program that supervisors can review to see which officers are working the most overtime.
Deputy Chief Smathers told the Civilian Police Oversight Board:
“Previously, we looked at the time in isolation, just overtime, just chief’s overtime. … So we’re looking at it all together, because at the end of the day they’re working X number of hours in total. … That’s a lot for men and women where you’re having these expectations that the next time you come to work, you’re able to be in a pursuit, use force, make critical decisions and have critical thinking skills. … I honestly believe once we are able to fine-tune these processes, we’ll be able to switch and move over aspects of overtime spending within APD and find some savings there. … [In situations where an officer is perpetually working a lot of overtime] it will be our hope that the commander will have a discussion and speak with that person [and find out why.] … The hope is to instill a better work-life balance among the officers. ”
124 OF 250 TOP PAID CITY HALL EMPLOYEES ARE POLICE OFFICERS
At the end of each calendar year, City Hall releases the top 250 wage earners at city hall.
The list of 250 top city hall wages earners is what is paid for the full calendar year of January 1 to December 31 of any given year.
The listing of the city’s 250 top wage earners for the calendar year 2018 includes 124 APD sworn police as the top wage city hall wage earners, earning more than most department directors as well as the APD Chief and all of his Deputy Chiefs.
The list of 124 include patrol officers first class, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders the deputy chiefs, and the chief with annual pay for the year 2018 ranging from $101,000 a year up to $192,937 all under the Keller Administration.
Base yearly pay for sworn police, depending upon rank and years of experience, is $60,320 to $83,200.
The base pay does not include longevity bonus pay at the end of a year of between $2,600 to $15,600 contingent on years of experience.
Following is a breakdown of the numbers of police officers paid in excess of $100,000 in calendar year 2018 as a result of overtime paid:
6 police officers were paid $151,313 TO $192,000
24 police officers were paid $126,162.80 to $144,510.44.
27 police officers were paid $113,498.98 to $125,088.48
22 police officers were paid $109,315.89 to $112,516.27
25 police officers were paid $105,076.20 to $108,946.45
21 police officers were paid $101,633.11 to $104,987.69
POLICE OVERTIME REPORT
In January, an APD “Overtime Evaluation Final Report” was released. The report was prepared by the city with input from APD and city payroll managers. Input for the report was also given by officials from the District Court and the District Attorney’s Office regarding court appearance requirements and officer interviews and trial preparation.
The Overtime Evaluation Final Report revealed that APD overtime spending has steadily increased since 2014 at the same time the number of police officers went down. Crime in the city also increased during the same period. In 2018, there were 867 officers and nearly $14 million was spent on overtime pay. On June 17, 2019, APD announced that it has hired 116 police officers during the 2018-2019 fiscal year that ended June 30, 2019 and the department now has 981 full time sworn police.
According to the Overtime Evaluation Report, although overtime is “an inevitable part of police work,” managerial changes can help reduce costs and improve accountability. According to the report, in 2017 on average, 6% of officers stayed late during of their shifts. However, some officers stayed late more than a third of their shifts.
The report states:
“Reportedly, overtime has historically been used within APD as a morale booster. … This practice has resulted in overtime becoming almost an expectation. Understandably, given this history, management controls and accountability either do not exist or are not enforced. This lack of management is one of the key drivers of overtime costs.”
COURT APPEARANCES SOURCE OF OVERTIME
Historically, APD Patrol Officers First Class and Sergeants who work or are assigned to DWI unit or issue traffic citations are the ones that get paid an extensive amount of overtime. Under the union contract, APD Patrol Offers First Class get paid a minimum of 2 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 night shifts, 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.
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 claimed 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 reported having worked more than 100 hours per week, according to his pay stubs.
EXCESSIVE OVERTIME CHRONIC PROBLEM
Police officers earning excessive overtime is nothing new. It has been going on for years and is very common knowledge. 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 actually spent $13 million. A March, 2017 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
(See City of Albuquerque website for full list of 250 top city wage earners).
TIME AND A HALF FOR OVERTIME IS CULPRIT
In 2018, the Keller Administration and the APD Union negotiated and agreed to a 2-year contract. The approved contract provides that the pay rate for officers with zero to 4 years of experience went from $28 to $29 an hour. Starting pay for an APD officer right out of the APD academy is $29 an hour.
Under the two-year contract, officers with 4 to 14 years of experience are paid $30 an hour. The new contract pays senior officers between $30 to $31.50 an hour. Officers with 15 years or more experience are paid $31.50 an hour. The rate for sergeants went from $32 to $35 an hour, and lieutenants pay went from $36.70 to $40.00 an hour.
Patrolman first class earning in excess of $100,000 a year can be easily explained using the $29 an hour base pay for officers with zero to 4 years of experience and starting pay for an APD officer right out of the APD academy.
The pay rate for patrol officers first class with zero to 4 years of experience is $29 an hour. A 40 hour work week is $60,320 yearly base salary calculated as follows: 40 hours a week X 52 weeks a year = 2,020 hours at $29.00 an hour = $60,320 yearly base salary.
Time and a half pay is $43.50 an hour ($29 divided by 2 = 14.50 + $28.00 = $43.50.) Overtime added is 25 hours a week X 52 weeks = 1,300 X $43.50 overtime pay an hour at time and a half per hour = $56, 550.
Base salary of $60,320 for 40-hour work week + $56,550 overtime for 25 hours a week = $116,870 total salary a year.
After the base salary is paid along with overtime paid, the city then pays longevity pay at the end of the year as follows:
For 5 years of experience: $100 will be paid bi-weekly, or $2,600 yearly
For 6 years of experience: $125 will be paid bi-weekly, or $3,250 yearly
For 7 to 9 years of experience: $225 will be paid bi-weekly, or $5,800 yearly
For 10 to 12 years of experience: $300 will be paid bi-weekly, or $7,800 yearly
For 13 to 15 years of experience: $350 will be paid bi-weekly, or $9,100 yearly
For 16 to 17 years or more: $450 will be paid bi-weekly, or $11,700 yearly
For 18 or more years of experience: $600 will be paid bi-weekly, 15,600 yearly.
(NOTE: Effective the first full pay period following July 1, 2019.)
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
It is long overdue that APD places a cap on all police overtime worked. 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. 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.
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 to make it up, either by taking it from other departments and programs, budget cuts or cost saving measurements. APD has added 117 police officers over the last year as a result of increases in pay and an aggressive recruitment program. APD now has over 981 sworn police officers and overtime should be coming down, not going up, yet an APD spokesman is saying more overtime can be expected during the 2019-202o fiscal year that began July 1, 2019.
A complete restructuring of APD hourly wages to base salaries should be implemented. The city 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 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.
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.
Another option would be to implement an “on call” shift pool of officers who normally work desk duties, such as detectives, that could assist in holiday work, tac-plan initiatives, call outs, calls for service, and special events to take over from officers who have already worked a full 40 hours. The “on call” shift pool would be on a rotating basis and be mandatory for all APD sworn personnel. No overtime would be paid to the “on call” shift pool and the hours worked would be applied towards their regular 40-hour work week.
Deputy Chief Smathers saying his plan does not focus on overtime accrued during calls for service or court hearings because both are inevitable and unpredictable is disappointing and somewhat short sighted. As was noted, APD Patrol Officers First Class and Sergeants who work or are assigned to DWI unit or issue traffic citations are the ones that getting paid an extensive amount of overtime. Also, under the union contract, APD Patrol Offers First Class get paid a minimum of 2 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. It is short sided not to make more of an effort to get a handle and reduce the amount of overtime paid to the officers dealing with DWI and appearing in court, which are both sources of high overtime.
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 arraignments, 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 arraignments.
The 25-hour overtime cap is a good first step. However, authorizing 65-hour work weeks as a matter of policy does not make much sense if you want to avoid extreme fatigue and emotional burnout.
It is likely given the amount of pay involved, more officers will want to work 65 hour work weeks, 40 at regular pay and 25 at time and a half. The 25-hour cap on overtime should be monthly, not weekly and an “on call” shift pool of officers should be created.