Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
The Albuquerque Police Department has submitted a wide-ranging proposal to the Mayor’s Office that lays out ways to reduce overtime spending, including capping each officer’s total number of overtime hours at 25 per week.
Currently, there is no cap on overall overtime, and it is not unusual for officers to exceed 25 hours.
The policy would also rearrange training and special event schedules to be more efficient.
Deputy Chief Mike Smathers, of the Administrative Services Bureau, outlined the plan at the Civilian Police Oversight Agency board meeting earlier this month and said the department hopes to have it implemented by the end of August. He said the report was not available for public release because it was still being reviewed.
Smathers said that if the plan is approved by the Keller administration, it will be implemented through a special order until the policies can be reviewed by the independent monitor appointed by the Department of Justice for the ongoing police reform effort.
“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,” Smathers told the CPOA board.
The department spent more than $17 million on overtime for fiscal year 2019, which ended June 30, which is nearly double the $9 million budgeted, according to APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.
In the FY 2020 budget, the overtime appropriation was increased to about $11.5 million, Gallegos said, but he said that is not expected to be sufficient.
Smathers said his plan does not focus on overtime accrued during calls for service or court hearings – because both are inevitable and unpredictable – but instead looks at the time officers spend doing administrative work, training and community and special events. He said the goal is to eliminate training overtime through better scheduling and shift adjustments.
However, Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said reducing overtime might not be possible, given the understaffing at the department and the requirements of training officers on policies under the court-approved settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city.
“I respect the administration looking into this and changing some policies and keeping an eye on overtime to make sure we’re trying to lower this expense item,” he said. “I also want the community and the department to be realistic about what the realities of policing in the city of Albuquerque are.”
The Office of the State Auditor is also examining overtime at APD. Stephanie Telles, a spokeswoman for the office, said Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing and that she could not comment on specifics.
Smathers, a former major with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina, joined APD in April.
He said that to get up to speed on the issues surrounding overtime use, he has been relying on the Albuquerque Police Department Overtime Evaluation Final Report, published in January. The report was prepared by the city and included input from APD, payroll managers, the District Attorney’s Office and court officials.
According to the report, overtime spending has steadily increased since 2014 as the number of officers on the force dwindled. Crime in the city increased during the same period.
In 2018, there were 867 officers and nearly $14 million was spent on overtime pay. In June, the department had about 960 officers and was expected to reach 980 by fall.
The report said that although overtime is “an inevitable part of police work,” managerial changes can help reduce costs and improve accountability.
“Reportedly, overtime has historically been used within APD as a morale booster,” the report says. “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.”
According to the report, in 2017 officers stayed late during 6% of their shifts on average. However, some officers stayed late more than a third of their shifts.
Smathers said the department is developing a dashboard that supervisors can tap into to see which officers are working the most overtime.
If 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,” he said.
The proposed 65-hour-a-week cap – 40 hours regular plus 25 hours overtime – will include chief’s overtime, training, administrative duties and calls for service. It does not include time officers spend in court, because that is out of the department’s purview. Currently, the cap applies only to chief’s overtime, a program in which companies or organizations pay the city to have an officer stationed on their property.
“Previously, we looked at the time in isolation, just overtime, just chief’s overtime,” Smathers said. “So we’re looking at it all together, because at the end of the day they’re working X number of hours in total.”
Smathers said the hope is to instill a better work-life balance among the officers.
“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,” Smathers said.
Types of overtime
Overtime hours by type, excluding chief’s overtime
Community meeting 1%
Holiday worked 19%
Tact plan 12%
Call out 10%
Calls for service 16%
Special events 7%