Government Reform

Is Out-of-Control Spending on Overtime and Comp Time Just Another Word For Economic Stimulation? Plus, They Fire Horses, Don't They?

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Yeah, yeah, I know: The next time I need a cop, I'll call a hippie.

In a story that doubtless has analogues in virtually every municipality in America, the Cincinnati Enquirer takes a long and disturbing look at the abuse of overtime and comp time by the Queen City's police department:

From January through November, police earned $7 million in overtime, much of it for court appearances or to staff sporting events, concerts, festivals and community meetings, city records show.

During that 11-month period, 238 police officers and civilian staffers among the department's roughly 1,400 employees earned more than $10,000 in overtime, allowing some to increase their base pay 20 percent or more.

Twenty-eight earned more than $20,000 in overtime during that period, including two who topped $30,000, records show….

Long-standing practices, a contract filled with frequent chances to earn extra pay and a police culture that fosters a sense of entitlement to readily available overtime figure into the department's hefty overtime tab, which equals about 5 percent of this year's $138 million budget.

Then there's comp time. Several offices have in excess of 10,000 hours of pay coming to them when they retire, "a ticking time bomb" for city coffers according to one observer.

Hey, if the current budget crises now playing at a local town hall, state capitol, etc., have the effect of actually restructuring really slack public-sector work oversight, at least something good will come of all those tax dollars we've wasted over the past coupla hundred years, right?

More here.

And at the same time, Cincinnati is wrestling with an even tougher decision than not paying its Thin Blue Line massive overtime: Should they fire 14 police horses that cost $1 million a year? Supporters say (in public, mind you):

Police commanders say [the horses] are great for crowd control, officers' visibility over crowds and public relations.

Paging Ooka the Wise, legendary ancient Japanese judge who makes great law from tough cases! Here's a solution: Fire the horses and have police sit on the shoulders of other police who are pulling those tough overtime wages. That might even be better for "public relations" than simply gilding your own paycheck.

Cincinnati is already set to fire 200 workers come December 31. I'm sure the city can get by without them. And without police horses, too.

And so can America, I'm wagering.