BOSTON (CBS) – No one questions the need for police on the street, but there is a debate over how much some are getting paid. As WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve reports, city leaders say the current overtime system could be breaking the bank.
Here is an interesting statistic, in 2011, 128 Boston Police officers made more than the Mayor and the Police Commissioner who are paid $175,000.
What is Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’ reaction?
“They are large numbers.”
Yes they are. City documents also show 41 officers made more than $200,000 last year.
Davis says, “I think that when they (the public) see outrageous salaries, there are questions and I think it’s really important to answer those questions.”
Sam Tyler is a municipal watchdog. He pours over spreadsheets looking for answers too.
“Basically the officers have figured out a way to manipulate the contract to generate substantial increased revenue for hours that aren’t worked,” Tyler said.
For example, an officer called in for a court case gets a four hour minimum, even if he is only needed for a fraction of that. Ditto when working a paid detail. It is all perfectly legal and spelled out in the union contract.
If they work four hours and one minute and then leave, they get paid for 8 hours,” explained Tyler.
“When you see this type of practice and you have 2,100 police officers in Boston, that all adds up to a lot of extra dollars that the taxpayers are paying.”
And that’s what worries Boston City Council President Stephen Murphy. He tells WBZ-TV that the city spent $32 million in police overtime last year; money that could have been used elsewhere in the budget.
“The budget is full of choices and when we don’t use it in one area we could use it in another area,” Murphy said. When asked if it is sustainable Murphy answered, “I don’t know, that’s a good question.”
The vast majority of officers play by the rules, but there have been questions about whether some officers violate the cap of 90 hours allowed in a week.
In fact, Commissioner Davis tried to fire an officer who was working paid details during his regular shift back in 2008. The officer ended up getting suspended, but last year he was the department’s top earner at $259,000.
“My reaction is to look very closely at those numbers,” Davis said. “He has been under very close scrutiny, and we continue to do that, but as long as he is playing within the parameters of the contract, there is not much I can do about it.”
Another budget buster for the city is the policy of buying back unused vacation and sick time. City Council President Murphy wants to limit the length of time someone can carry that, so the city doesn’t get stuck with a large bill when the person leaves.