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Police OT up year-to-year by $280,000

new map temp_july 15Police overtime costs in Santa Fe went up by more than $280,000 in the most recent fiscal year that ended in June, after a change in officers’ workweek schedules.

City government figures show that Santa Fe officers accumulated 7,818 more hours of overtime for the 2014-15 budget year, when officers were working 10-hour shifts four days a week instead of the standard five-day workweeks that were in place the previous year.

Police officials had maintained before the change that overtime would go down with the four-day workweeks and three-day weekends that officers prefer.

Citing a study conducted by the Police Foundation, a police lieutenant last year provided city management with a memo saying officers “who work traditional 8-hour shifts worked significantly more overtime – on average five times more – than officers working alternative 10-hour shifts.”

That idea isn’t supported by the latest overtime totals provided by city government. But, as he did several months ago when earlier budget numbers showed police overtime going up, recently retired Police Chief Eric Garcia still maintains day-to-day overtime decreased with four-day work weeks and more OT was then used on special or targeted crime-fighting efforts.

“Yes, overtime did go up,” Garcia said during an interview this week, “but we were able to take the cost savings from day-to-day shifts and redirect that money toward targeting specific areas of criminal activities. If crime was up, we took that savings from implementing the 4-10 schedule and put it into areas that would do the most good.”

Still, the bottom line reflected in the city budget is more overtime hours worked and more overtime spending with the 4-10 schedule in place for 11 months of the past fiscal year.

“All I am able to share with you is cold, hard numbers. The trend is what you see,” said Oscar Rodriguez, the city’s finance director.

Those numbers show that, in fiscal year 2013-2014, when police officers were working a five-day workweek, they accumulated 34,000 hours in overtime, translating to $1.24 million in overtime pay.

For fiscal year ending June 2015, with officers working four-day workweeks 11 of the 12 months, officers amassed more than 41,000 hours in overtime and more than $1.52 million in overtime pay.

But Rodriguez cautioned it may still be too early to see a trend. “As someone who spends a lot of time analyzing trends and numbers, and trying to make sense of them, I would tell you not to make conclusions about any significant change in one year. From my standpoint, it’s really not enough time,” he said.

Differing views on schedule

The police work schedule has been a subject of debate over the past few years. SFPD had operated under a four-day, 10-hour shift schedule for at least a decade prior to the change to a five-day workweek ushered in by Ray Rael, Garcia’s predecessor as chief, after the City Council had pushed for a reduction in mounting police OT expenses.

Rael said having officers working five days a week would provide better police coverage day-to-day and reduce costs. City records backed up Rael on the cost-savings prediction – overtime costs did go down by about 15 percent, representing savings of more than $100,000 per year, after the five-day work week was imposed in 2012.

Leaders of the police officers union fought the change and later said losing the four-day workweek was even affecting officers’ marriages. After Mayor Javier Gonzales was elected in 2014 and Garcia came in as chief, the SFPD went back to the four-day schedule, starting in August of that year.

Ex-chief Garcia said savings from day-to-day OT meant the department was able to allocate money saved to beefing up such programs as “Operation Full-Court Press,” an initiative implemented by Rael that targets repeat offenders. Garcia also stepped up patrols in shopping districts during the holiday season, resulting in a reduction in property crimes.

Sgt. Matthew Martinez, president of the police union, said police morale is up. Officers regularly have three-day weekends and are able to spend more time with their families.

Meanwhile, other important factors are down. “Spending is down, gas consumption is down, crime is down, I don’t understand why people would still be unhappy with pros like that. I don’t understand the disconnect,” Martinez said.

Santa Fe police officers are allowed to use their police cars and city-paid fuel for daily commutes as far as 45 miles one way for new hires and 60 miles for veterans hired under older rules. Martinez said that, with four work days and one less commuting day, fuel costs go down, and there’s also less wear and tear on the vehicles.

Santa Fe’s interim police chief, Patrick Gallagher, said he’s spent the past few weeks analyzing operations. He’s not even sure yet he wants to stay on as chief, so hasn’t even considered changing work shift schedules. “It’s too soon,” he said. “Overtime is fluid and can’t be looked at in a vacuum. You’d need to break out the overtime with the cost for minimum staffing.”

A survey of other law enforcement agencies shows a mix of different work schedules, sometimes within departments. Officers working day and swing shifts with Albuquerque Police Department work five 8-hour shifts, while those working the graveyard shift work four 10-hour shifts. Work schedules for New Mexico State Police officers vary depending on the district.

Las Cruces and Rio Rancho police are both back to four 10-hour shifts after experimenting with other schedules. Santa Fe County Sheriff deputies work five 8-hour shifts per week.

This article, Police OT up year-to-year by $280,000, first appeared on ABQJournal Online New Mexico News Albuquerque Journal News.