Why Cops Cost So Much: Overtime for Weekend Events is Part of the Job!

The Cincinnati Police Department, best known nationally for the 2001 killing of an unarmed black man that sparked days of rioting, costs Queen City taxpayers a lot of money for overtime pay. Is it because Cincinnati is undergoing the sort of crime wave that pervades Gotham City in Batman comics? Well, no. It's partly because the cops who do event planning work during the week and then get overtime on the weekends to cover things such as the Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati.

From hometown paper The Enquirer:

Assuming the [Special Events] unit members accrue overtime during December at roughly the rate they did earlier this year, that would raise the year's total to about $95,000, nearly enough to hire an additional officer....

One-hundred-fifty-one Cincinnati police officers - about one in seven - had received more than $10,000 in overtime through Dec. 1, the city records show. Of them, 15 had drawn more than $20,000 in overtime.

The Special Events Unit is a prism through which broader questions pass about how so much overtime is earned.

To some skeptics, the unit's schedule violates business principles - and common sense. It is as illogical, they say, as giving Sundays off to a Cincinnati Bengals beat writer and then paying him overtime to report on Sunday games.

"This is the kind of thing you used to see from the old political machines," said Steve Erie, a political science professor and director of urban studies at the University of California, San Diego.

So why is this happening? Two reasons, at least. First is old-fashioned organizational featherbedding:

[The head of the Special Events Unit] insists that her team's Monday-to-Friday work weeks are necessary to handle the considerable details - police staffing levels, street closings and temporary liquor licenses, among others - involved in staging major events such as Oktoberfest or Riverfest, as well as other smaller community events.

"Phone calls come in probably 10 times a day," she said. "It's not like we're sitting here with nothing to do. It's important to have someone in the office to take the calls and deal with the requests when they come in."

And then there are work rules, requested by the cops in their collective bargaining agreement and accepted by a pliant city council:

The Fraternal Order of Police contract, in fact, partly explains the current situation.

Under it, the city may change an officer's regularly scheduled off days only twice a year without paying overtime. There are two exceptions: Riverfest and the Black Family Reunion, for which officers are guaranteed overtime if their days off or hours are changed to work at those events. The city charges the Black Family Reunion 10 percent of its festival-related costs, and some other events also partly reimburse the city.

The limited options for switching officers' days off means that the Cincinnati Police Department is severely restricted in its ability to alter work schedules in the way that commonly occurs in the private sector to adjust to changing needs - and to avoid excessive overtime.

To his credit, the new chief of the CPD, James Craig, is doing an audit of department practices to ferret out all sorts of inefficiencies and loopholes that add to up to real dough while not in any way securing the city's residents, streets, or properties. It's Craig's audit team, in fact, that called attention to this situation.

Cincinnati is a thoroughly representative city, whether we're talking the Edifice Complex, leaking population, or ineffective education. What's happening in a place like this is multiplied 10,000 times across America and it's well past time that every municipality in every state in the country start combing through all of its public-sector work practices and contracts to dig out arrangements that are indefensible during flush times and disastrous during tough ones.

It won't be easy: In Ohio and elsewhere, politicians who train their sites on public safety workers such as cops and firemen typically get pummeled in the press and via high-dollar campaigns questioning their sanity (read: temerity for suggesting that cops and firemen, just like other public-sector workers, are typically overpaid relative to private-sector counterparts).

Going after soft deals for cops and firemen is the state and local equivalent of going after defense at the national level. Precisely because people are slow to question that sort of spending, it has over the years mutated into a massive black hole for tax dollars and accountability. Indeed, it's exactly because such spending is taken for granted as a public expense that it needs to be looked at the most closely.

Sandy Springs, Georgia is the "town that outsourced everything." Not all burgs can do that, but they all can learn a lot from revisiting the idea that municipal government is not first and foremost a revenue engine for the people who direct it:

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  • Lord Humungus||

    what? You don't want Officer dunphy to enjoy his powerboat? What kind of monsters are you?

  • ||

    No powerboat. Cars and boats don't excite me ,sister .

    Otoh. It's nice to be able to put 25 percent +of gross into investments each year

    I actually work very little OT but our OT rate is very generous... See ... Contracts

    And my agency is so ridiculously understaffed, thereis always OT available

  • ||

    Which just adds to the ridiculousness of this sort of thing.

    You're paying a minimum of 1.5 times the normal rate and depending on circumstanes 3 or more times.

    At some point its got to be cheaper just to hire a couple of more people rahter than pay your existing workers overtime.

    Except that the idea of a 40 hour work week is bullshit. Most of us do not consider it an imposition to work 50-60 hours, but this is just another perk for working in the public sector.

    Fuck I've jsut finished 20+ years in the Navy, I would have loved me some overtime.

  • ||

    Again, the math is simply compelling.

    You can wank about the fact that yes... Cops get paid overtime ...IMO agency it is never more than time and a half and IMO that's more that fair, I would agree that rates in excess of that are wrong... But again, it really is much cheaper to understaff and pay OT . So even though the local press LOVES to print stats of alleged overtime abuse... Patrol officers making 120k per year, it SAVES the taxpayers money vs. fully staffing us

    Consider that besides recruiting costs, training costs (for the 4 plus months of academy and 4 months of initial field training, etc. officers are a huge cost with zero productivity.

    Consider every day in patrol we are at bare minimums a d that's WITH guys on backfill OT to meet minimums.

    Consider that we shitcan TONS of solvable ID THEFT CASES because we dissolved the detective unit that specializes in them,especially since the banks reimburse the victims.

    The other day I caught she shithead thieves in possession of stolen checks, etc. I had PC to get a warrant for their car. But the detective sgt. Could not spare a detective.

    I ended up writing the warrant in between calls, which was nearly impossible, not to mention getting enuf time to drive to court and getting a judge to sign it, etc. We ended up getting a whole check printing operation out of the trunk and the secret service took the case over thank god or it still would have gotten minimal attention.

    We need to of course dismantle the war on drugs, but the reality is that depts save massive amounts of money by understaffng

  • Old Man With Candy||

    Sites? Trains?

  • ||

    That's the first thing I noticed too. Is Reason hiring any proofreaders?

  • ||

    Even supposing that there is extra work to be done, surely in a time of high unemployment it would make sense to hire additional cops instead of having some work overtime.

    Of course, the difficulty in firing an extra cop makes it difficult to decide to hire one. Just another way that union rules can help the haves instead of the have-nots.

  • ||

    Your math fu is weak. As explained as nauseum, it is MUCH cheaper. To understand and pay overtime, then to fully staff.. The Math isn't that hard.

    It's primarily because when you staff more, you have tons of costs extra PER employee eg medical, vacAtion, training, FICA, etc that don't kick in when employees are on OT

    this is one of the mostmisunderstood aspects of payroll costs.

  • ||

    Ugh, autocorrect. Should be understaff , not understand

  • The Angry RPh||

    This is one of the many instances where the public sector employees have a complete disconnect from reality. When things get tight in the private sector, the OT is the first thing to go.

  • ||

    One... It is cheaper to pay OT for employees like cops with tons of benefits, not to mention recruitment and training than it is to pay OT

    two... In this environment, all "nonessential OT" is prohibited. Granted, dealing with occutards is considered essential

  • Mike M.||

    Yep. Between the overtime scam and the disability scam, cops are tremendously expensive to the taxpayers.

  • sarcasmic||

    Why do cops get so much overtime? Because they can, that's why.

    It's not like they work for a business that depends on customers voluntarily exchanging money for goods and services.

  • WTF||

    Why do cops get so much overtime? Because they can Fuck you, that's why.

  • ||

    Again. Overtime abuse is bad, but centers paribus it is substantially cheaper to understaff and pay OT then to fully staff.

  • insensitive monster||

    Why does that chick in the blue dress have a boner?

  • Mr. Soul||

    dude, you made me snort coffee!

  • Cliché Bandit||

    same here

  • WTF||

    insensitive hilarious monster!

  • ||

    Let's face it; if "Taste of Cincinnati" doesn't qualify as hazardous duty, nothing does.

  • The Angry RPh||

    Yeah, with the stress of dealing with temporary liquor licenses and 10 phone calls a day, the place is a pressure cooker.

  • WTF||

    Ten phone calls a day? Wow, that's like slightly more than 1 call every hour! Of course they need overtime!

  • Chatroom Crank||

    In this time of national emergency, sacrifices must be made. All citizens are called to do what they can to make the homeland safe. In this spirit, all overtime for all government employees must be ended. They work as long as the job requires for their base salary, no overtime, no comp time.

  • ||

    Contracts.... How do they work?

  • ||

    Now why didnt I think of that, its almost too perfect. Wow.


  • ||

    I wonder if Arpaio's cops get paid a lot for overtime.

  • sarcasmic||

    All cops get a lot of overtime.

  • ||

    False. I have less than 60 hrs this entire year.

    Because I do not volunteer for,it. That's just court, etc.

    Lots of officers average 20 or more hours per week. Others , like me, average about one or two at most.

    Very wide variance. It's a matter of public record. Check your local agency

  • ||

    Phone calls come in probably 10 times a day

    Ten whole phone calls a day. Wow. (And you know that's an exaggeration.)

    I take ten calls, personally, every frickin' morning. And I have no idea how many calls my paralegal takes.

    This is not exactly a crushing workload that requires a full-time staff.

  • ||

    This is not exactly a crushing workload that requires a full-time staff.

    Don't forget, they have to scribble a note on the calendar.

  • ||

    When I liveed in Rhode Island, that State was spending over $10 million per year on construction site attendance for cops. All they ever did was sit, drink coffee, chat with workers and block traffic.
    Here in maine, almost all of that work is done by Flaggers (those people who stand at work sites with "Stop/Yield" signs). Works perfectly and at minimal cost.
    It is amazing how the cops getting ready for retirement do huge amounts of "work details" to boost their pensions - that is, those who don't go out on disability

  • ||

    Yup. That was a MAJOR boondoggle when I worked in MA. it was a ridiculous abuse

  • ||

    Yup. That was a MAJOR boondoggle when I worked in MA. it was a ridiculous abuse

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I am still enjoying Nick's "Edifice Complex"...that is awesome, I am going to use that.


    The Cincinnati Police Department, best known nationally for the 2001 killing of an unarmed black man that sparked days of rioting, costs Queen City taxpayers a lot of money for overtime pay. Is it because Cincinnati is undergoing the sort of crime wave that pervades Gotham City in Batman comics? Well, no. It's partly because the cops who do event planning work during the week and then get overtime on the weekends to cover things such as the Oktoberfest and Taste of Cincinnati.

    Yes, but you see, this is a completely isolated incident, and is not reflective of a broad, pervasive exploitation of overtime by police officers....

    I mean, its not like if you google "police" and "overtime abuse" there's any other examples of exactly the same thing.... going back decades.... in basically every state & city in the country...


    move along


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