BPD Audit Reveals No Control of Officer Overtime
This post has been updated.
Baltimore’s Police Department has little, if any way to track and control the amount of overtime its officers work. That’s according to the first phase of a long-delayed audit of police overtime practices.
Mayor Catherine Pugh called for the audit in her state of the city speech in March after federal court revelations of rampant overtime abuse by members of the now disbanded Gun Trace Task Force.
But that audit was caught up in litigation between the police union and the city until Wednesday morning when Henry Raymond, director of the city’s finance department, released the first part of the audit. It revealed that between 2013 and 2017 annual overtime costs more than doubled, from $23 million to $47 million.
Raymond says the findings show that the department lacks internal controls to ensure officers are working all of the hours for which they are paid.
“And it’s undetermined whether present internal controls can prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of overtime,” he said.
Among other things, the audit report found that officers failed to show up for roll call at the beginnings of their shifts, that overtime policy requirements were routinely ignored and that some units lacked supervision to make sure officers were working the hours they claimed.
Raymond says some investigative units officers work in separate locations from their supervisors, which makes it "difficult to supervise" their comgins and goings.
"Accountability is particularly challenging within investigative units, such as homicide, where the officers are assigned unmarked vehicles," he said.
Additionally, some of those officers don’t clock in and out, which makes it even harder to keep track of those vehicles.
And finally, Raymond says, the department’s manual systems are inadequate for keeping track of hours worked and overtime.
“Lots of paper, lots of forms, the more paper the more forms you have the more prone it is to error,” he said.
Raymond listed short and long term recommendations for the department, including requiring officers to "report for roll call every morning."
Other short term recommendations include requiring officers who call in sick at the last minute to use sick days rather than paid days off, creating a new policy to keep track of overtime use, and requiring supervisors to monitor officers’ work hours and overtime daily and weekly.
“And the implementation of disciplinary action for supervisors who are non-compliant with the overtime policies,” said Raymond.
As for long term changes, Mayor Pugh says she wants to update technology to keep better track of work hours, overtime, and unmarked police vehicles.
“We will put that in our budget as we move forward for next year because we have got to get the technology in place,” said Pugh.
She says she wants to use mobile biometric technology to track when officers clock in and out and where their unmarked cars go.
A police spokesperson says the department began testing a pilot biometric system in February, but ran into problems with the software. Regardless, Pugh says “Judge Bredar has told us already we’ve got to move forward with the technology.”
James Bredar, the federal judge who oversees the department’s consent decree, said last month the audit's recommendations won’t be implemented until the department has a permanent police commissioner.
Pugh says she will hold the next police commissioner accountable for getting overtime costs under control. She has said she will name a new commissioner by the end of this month, but the Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday that she said she at an event at Lexington Market that she won't "be rushed" into making that appointment.
Officials at the Baltimore City Fratenral Order of Police Lodge 3, which represents city police officers, failed to respond Wednesday to WYPR's resquests for comment. Thursday, Mike Mancuso, lodge president, sent a letter to the editorial board of the Baltimore Sun in which he blamed the overtime problems on "widespread mismanagement" and a lack of staff.
"We are short 1,000 police officers at a time when the current crime level required at least 3,000 officers in times past," he wrote. "In essence, our manpower is down approcimately 1,000 less than what is required, yet everyone is scratching their heads, trying to determine why overtime costs are so high."
He urged the mayor "to begin now to take whatever steps are necessary to repair and reform the Baltimore Police Department."