Boston Police Overtime Scandal: Drug Unit Clocked in 900 Court Hours Not Needed by DA's Office


Thirty two cops from the Boston Police Department's drug unit clocked 400 hours of overtime over the last two years on 91 court appearances not requested by prosecutors, according to The Boston Globe, part of $1.8 million spent by the unit on overtime.

Here's how they took care of business:

The Globe discovered the pattern as part of a review of 40 cases between 2008 and 2010 that appeared to draw an excessive number of officers to court on the taxpayers' dime. In each case, the Globe compared the list of officers who had received overtime for the case with the list of those who had been summoned by the district attorney's office, which is primarily responsible for calling officers to hearings.

Boston police disputed the findings, saying that in each of the cases a sergeant who supervises squads in the Police Department's drug unit had ordered the officer to court, or the prosecutor had verbally asked the officer to appear.

"The sergeant has the option of bringing more people in as necessary," Commissioner Edward F. Davis said. "As long as the sergeant signs off on it, the department is satisfied that it was appropriate."

Davis said that department rules allow a supervisor to order officers to court.
But that is contrary to the procedure officially agreed upon by police and prosecutors more than a decade ago, according to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley's office.

Police officers sent in by their supervisor do not appear in court in an official capacity, said Conley's spokesman, Jake Wark. "If the supervisor sends additional officers to court dates when they're not summonsed in, they'll simply be spectators in the gallery," Wark said. "At the end of the day, the prosecutor trying the case is in the best position to plan out his or her witness list."

The District Attorney insists any summons of a police officer to court would come with a paper trail, for transparency.

The Globe reports the police department spent a total of $8.6 million on overtime last year, and that "the department has defended the cost by saying officers have no choice but to respond when they are called to court by prosecutors." The Boston City Council unanimously approved a $2.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 last month. The police department received (pdf) an increase of $8.1 million, or a 3 percent increase, over last year.

 More Reason on police and public unions.