The city has set an overtime budget of $2 million for the police department for fiscal year 2016 despite having spent $2.6 million in fiscal year 2015.
So far this year the city’s police department has expended 34-percent of its annual overtime budget as of September 15th, 2015.
Acting police chief William Fraher said the bulk of the overtime has been expended on the parade season that concluded this month. “We’re going to be very close to our budget number. We have a lot of things going in our favor. The parade season is over,” said Fraher on Thursday evening during the public safety departmental budget hearing before the city council. “October, November, December, January, and February are traditionally low overtime months.”
Fraher said a great deal has changed since last fiscal year. He cited the hiring of 22 special police officer, the adoption of a parade fee ordinance that shifts some security and clean-up cost to the organizers. He also said the department intends to use forfeiture funds to purchase 1,000 French barricades to further reduce overtime spending.
The new barricades which are being purchased will allow fewer police officers to efficiently handle crowd control, said Fraher. He said the deployment of special police officers – who are part-time and paid much less than regular cops – during this parade season has already saved thousands in overtime expenditures.
“Overtime budget was slashed dramatically,” said Fraher.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration is seeking to rein in overtime spending in the police department by setting what is described as an “aggressive” goal to limit overtime spending to $2 million.
Police director Jerry Speziale said the department also implemented a new directive that requires overtime pass through his office before it gets approved.
Speziale said overtime is being utilized on an emergency basis to keep police officers at shooting and homicide scenes.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, said he’d like to see a realistic overtime budget so as to avoid any year-end scramble for funds to plug departmental budget holes. He cited the current overtime spending so far – first quarter into the fiscal year the department has spent 34-percent as opposed to the sensible 25-percent.
“$2 million isn’t going to be the number at the end of the year. We’re going to see some movement upward in that number,” said Morris.
Council president William McKoy also said he wanted to see a realistic number to prevent any future “shocks.”
“I’m encouraged by the plan for overtime,” said McKoy. “I think it’s aggressive. I think it’s necessary and required.”