Schenectady police overtime hit a high of more than $3.4 million in 2015, with overtime increasing each year over the past five years.
Overtime for police officers totaled $3,414,822 last year, according to documents obtained by The Daily Gazette in a Freedom of Information Law request.
That’s compared to $2,766,366 in 2010; $2,808,350 in 2011; $3,166,783 in 2012; $3,249,363 in 2013; and $3,349,443 in 2014.
2015 police overtime
Premium holiday pay: $13,135
Court overtime: $0
Field Service Bureau
Premium holiday pay: $243,494
Court overtime: $113,632
Premium holiday pay: $147,199
Court overtime: $132,817
STOP DWI: $12,779
2014 GIVE: $38,336
2015 GIVE: $64,960
Grand total: $3,414,822
Assistant Police Chief Michael Seber said although the overtime costs were more than what was budgeted for in 2015, expenses in other areas in the police budget were less because of vacancies within the department.
“We are still catching up on those vacancies,” Seber said on Wednesday. “Even though you see the overtime numbers rise, our overall budget was still maintained and we stayed within budget. Some money from vacancies went toward the overtime costs.”
General fund expenses for police overtime totaled $3,298,746. That’s compared to $2,422,500 set aside in overtime in the 2015 budget. The remaining $116,076 was overtime for grant funding.
A majority of that overtime — $1,976,096 — was for patrols. That’s compared to $1,175,000 budgeted for that overtime. Another $634,134 was for overtime for investigations, with $510,000 budgeted.
The 2016 budget has increased the overtime funds for both bureaus, with $1,500,000 for field service and $600,000 for investigations.
Seber could not provide on Wednesday the total number of overtime hours police officers worked in 2015.
Seber said that between 2010 and 2013 a buyout was offered for police officers. Over a two-year period, more than 20 officers left the Schenectady Police Department, he said.
He said the department is always working to hire more officers. It now has a total of 148 officers, but is budgeted for 154, according to Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett.
With eight officers who graduated from the Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy earlier this month, Seber said he expects the trend of increasing overtime to start turning around.
After graduation, the new officers are required to participate in field training and ride with senior members of the department for two months.
“Eight officers have graduated and will complete the program sometime in March,” he said. “That will help with the overtime budget. But we still have six vacancies within the department. We hope to fill those vacancies.”
The department also recruited another five individuals who entered the academy last week.
Police officers again topped the list of city earners in 2015 with several officers receiving more than their base pay in overtime.
Sgt. Jeff McCutcheon was the top earner among city employees last year with $88,659 in overtime on top of a $75,537 salary, for a total paycheck of $174,021.
Lt. Mark McCracken, the Police Department’s spokesman, earned the second-highest gross salary in 2015 of $168,649 with a base pay of $84,121 and an additional $72,152 in overtime.
In addition to vacancies, Seber said there are a number of factors that contribute to the Police Department’s overtime, such as holiday pay, court time and major crimes.
Court overtime for officers with the investigative bureau has increased over the past five years, with $132,817 in overtime expenses in 2015. A total of $113,632 was given for officers with the field service bureau.
The 2015 city budget set aside $120,000 each for both bureaus’ court overtime.
“We have some trials you will see the investigative bureau overtime raised over the years,” Seber said. “That’s from some major homicide trials our officers had to report to testify.”
Seber said the department works with the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office to try to schedule officers’ testimonies during their regular shifts, but that sometimes overtime is unavoidable.
Also, the Jay Street fire on March 6 added to the police’s overtime budget in 2015, he said. Officers received a total of $85,411 in overtime due to work related to the fire, according to the city’s Human Resources Department.
Seber said he believes the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would reimburse some of that overtime. Mayor Gary McCarthy was unclear if that would be the case and if so how much would be provided.
“They reimburse some of our overtime expenses on arson cases with the Fire Department, investigators and sometimes police officers,” McCarthy said. “They may reimburse some police overtime during the initial phase of the fire.”
McCarthy noted that city expenses related to the fire, including the nearly $500,000 cost to demolish 100-104 Jay St., are still subject to a number of lawsuits. He said he is looking for the property owners to pickup the bill.
McCarthy said spending money on police overtime has produced results with a decrease in crime in the city. He said he hopes the overtime “pays off in the long-term.”
“It’s unfortunately a necessary evil of staffing a 24-hour operation,” he said. “We try to make sure the public is getting value for the dollars that are spent. You’re not seeing a department riddled with scandal, and you’re seeing a pretty high solve rate with higher profile crimes.”
McCarthy said staffing is a component of overtime, but that call volume is also a big factor. He said city officers deal with between 85,000 and 89,000 calls a year.
“People would like to see more cops,” he said. “So in the short-term the pressure is still on to provide more policing. No matter what we spend, some people will always say it’s too much. At the same time, some people want a police officer at every corner.”
Councilman Vince Riggi said he believes the city is better off with more officers on the streets and for overtime expenses to hopefully decrease as a result.
“It’s certainly not a good trend that every year we have been going steadily up,” he said. “I know these guys are working hard, but once you get over a certain number of hours on the job, are you as capable?”
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