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Hagerstown City Police overtime costs down

June 06, 1998

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Small bites have been taken out of Hagerstown City Police overtime costs in recent months, putting the department on pace to spend at least $138,000 less than it had projected for this budget year, officials said Friday.

Police overtime for the fiscal year ending June 30 is expected to be between $780,000 and $810,000, said City Finance Director Al Martin.

That's more than triple the department's overtime costs six years ago, but significantly less than the $948,000 city officials said the department was likely to spend this budget year.

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Martin and Police Chief Dale Jones expect to update the mayor and City Council on the overtime situation in early July.

Overtime required for this weekend's Western Maryland Blues Fest and this month's Miss Maryland Pageant will cost about as much as for last fall's Mummers' Parade, Jones said. Overtime for the parade cost about $10,000.

But the department has taken steps to reduce overtime.

For about a month, department supervisors have received detailed weekly reports on overtime costs and their causes, including investigations of violent crime and covering manpower shortages, Jones said.

More clearly defined rules have been set for overtime to be approved and supervisors are scrutinizing overtime requests more closely, he said.

The street crime unit that began on Jan. 27 often can be used to focus on specific crimes rather than calling in officers for overtime, he said.

The state's attorney's office has helped reduce overtime for court appearances, for which officers who work nights and weekends often get overtime pay, Jones said.

Recently, the department got subpoenas for 15 officers on one case, he said. Police officials were able to whittle the subpoena list down to nine officers.

That can make a big difference, Jones said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the help from the courts is good, but more needs to be done.

Jones said it will be tough to meet the $549,999 budget the council approved for overtime for the July 1, 1998, through June 30, 1999 budget year. That's almost the same budget that was approved for the current fiscal year.

Bruchey said several police officers he has talked to said they are willing to reopen their union contract to find ways to reduce overtime costs.

"Someone's got to find solutions. ... We can't find it without talking about it," he said.

Two big issues that could be addressed through renegotiating the contract with the police union are court time and roll call, he said.

"That's what hurts us," Bruchey said.

Roll call is the 15-minute overlap during which the previous shift remains on the street while the incoming shift is updated on the day's crimes and suspects.

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