As police in Baltimore City try to fight back against the soaring murder rate, and also solve other crimes, city leaders are trying to figure out how they can do it without busting the budget.
The police department is millions of dollars over budget, solely because of officer overtime. City Council members passed a resolution in August to crack down on the department's overtime by reviewing their budget more closely.
"Is there overtime abuse? I believe so. Do we have the number of officers that we should in the police department? Absolutely not. If we go back to, for example, 2012, we had 3,017," Mayor Catherine Pugh said.
Before, there were quarterly meetings that would monitor all agencies including the police department, but city council members felt that wasn't enough.
The police department gets more than other agencies in the city and is budgeted for over half a billion dollars. After the first quarter in 2018, the department was already $17 million over budget because of overtime.
“BPD lacks internal controls that would allow the department to ensure that officers are working all of the regular hours for which they are paid, as well as to assure that any overtime hours are necessary. The failure to maintain appropriate hours over overtime begins with the lack of appropriate policies to govern over time and the failure extends through the lack of enforcement efforts,” explained Henry Raymond with the Department of Finance.
Raymond blames the overtime issues within the department on three major factors: the lack of command accountability and enforcement, the barriers to effective monitoring and supervision, and the reliance on paper-intensive systems and the lack of technology.
Lack of command accountability and enforcement
Raymond says within the department supervisors are not holding officers accountable, so officers are taking advantage of the system.
He continued to say the department lacks practices that ensure officers are actually working their regular hours instead of lying, they lack control in attendance, and requirements are often ignored. Because of this lack of accountability, supervisors are not able to ensure overtime expenditures are necessary or appropriate.
Barriers to effective monitoring and supervision
Raymond says another problem the department is facing involves certain detectives and officers that work at off-site locations.
Since there are few protocols in place regarding clocking in and out for work, often homicide detectives and other investigators are out in the field while supervisors are at headquarters. The problem this creates is that the supervisors are not able to track where their officers are, where they are working, and it creates an overall problem with accountability.
Reliance on paper-intensive systems and lack of technology
The last major issue Raymond pointed out within the Baltimore Police Department regards the systems used to keep track of hours worked.
Raymond says time sheets are kept manually, which is not only labor intensive and requires a lot of paper and forms, but it's an inefficient process for measuring and tracking attendance and overtime. Raymond also points out that more paper and forms can lead to more errors, lost paperwork, and issues within the department.
Also, supervisors are lacking real-time data about their officer's hours, making it hard to make decisions on whether overtime is necessary, appropriate, and reasonable.
Long-term fixes are mandatory to fix the department, but while money is being raised and budgets are being looked at, the Department of Finance has short-term solutions to help.
Raymond says BPD needs to approve time and attendance policies, requiring officers to report for a roll call every morning so their supervisors can better keep track of where they are.
He also says there need to be changes made to how vacation and sick days are used. In the department, there are certain incentives for officers who do not use their sick days all year, but some have been taking advantage of the system. Raymond says some officers are calling out sick, but not reporting it as a sick day so they can get the benefits the following year, ultimately costing the department money they don't actually owe.
New overtime policies could also extend expectations for supervisors, suggesting they use time stamps, have disciplinary actions for those that don't follow policy, and implement training modules for supervisors on how to monitor overtime.
Lastly, it was suggested to have individual commanders who would measure overtime in the department daily, weekly, and bi-weekly for each unit as well as have an internal audit function which would provide risk-based audits of overtime.
Long-term solutions for the department's overtime issue revolve around adding technology. Raymond says the department needs real-time data to become more efficient.
The technology the department is considering would include biometric time clocks at all BPD locations. This would require biometric scanning for clocking in and out. In addition to this, the department would also implement GPS biometric systems which would let officers clock in and out remotely while sharing their location.
The GPS tracking would also extend to unmarked BPD cars that officers take home.
As of Wednesday, officials say they are starting with their short-term plans while they try to figure out the funds for updating the department's technology.
“Reducing overtime costs is one of the Department’s top priorities. To that end, we have already begun implementing several recommendations included in the overtime audit and, working with the Mayor’s office, will continue that process over the next few months,” explained Matt Jablow, the Chief of Public Information for the Baltimore Police Department.
Mayor Pugh says some of these new rules and regulations will be put in place when the new Baltimore Police Commissioner is appointed, but she has still yet to announce a candidate or a time when she plans on making her decision.
"Since we don't have the number [of officers], take that money and use it to invest in the technology. That's the instruction that I'm providing for the finance department because we've got to get here. We cannot continue to accept recommendations without implementation," Pugh said.