Police Overtime Pay

police overtime pay
Credit: Carillet

While poor oversight and supervision of overtime usage is nearly always the primary catalyst for overtime abuse, it is the end result that lands police officers in trouble.

Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.

Police overtime pay is one great benefit, and you have it totally within your power to earn that money honestly and conscientiously. There was a time when police officers were treated much differently from everyone else when it came to overtime pay. Thankfully, those days are gone, and you’ll enjoy access to police overtime pay at time and a half. 

The amount of police overtime pay available to you will depend on a number of factors. Overtime pay will be limited in a police department that is well staffed, fiscally responsible, and absent a significant crime problem.   

Conversely, if your department is short on police officers, crime is running rampant, and its fiscal management resembles its people management, you could have as much police overtime pay as you can handle. The health of the general economy has a lot to do with the use of overtime. When revenue is coming in, politicians are quick to throw money at crime problems.

Your police overtime pay will fall into two categories:

Court Overtime

As a police officer, you’ll be making arrests, and those arrests will result in court appearances. You’ll appear for court when you’re off duty, and you’ll be entitled to police overtime pay. Depending on labor agreements, you’ll receive a minimum compensation probably between two and four hours at time and a half. When your court appearance exceeds the minimum, your overtime will be calculated by some formula if the appearance continues in less than one hour increments.

Police departments are always trying to formulate systems where most court appearances occur while you’re working. Some success can be achieved in a jurisdiction where the police department is small, and the court docket is light. However, the bigger everything gets, the more difficult this goal becomes. Courts do everything on their own schedules with no regard for the wishes of a police department.

Daily Overtime

Your police department may have different designations for police overtime pay, but I’ll refer to overtime other than court overtime as daily overtime. Your daily overtime will probably follow a standard calculating process minus any minimum. If you work twenty minutes past your tour of duty, your compensation will be based only on that twenty minutes.

Daily overtime may be available for special patrol and enforcement operations. Sports activities, demonstrations, and other large social gatherings frequently provide the need for police officers to work overtime. You could join a police department where these activities are numerous, and your opportunities to earn additional income frequent.

Origins of Police Overtime Pay Abuse

You’re in a department where daily overtime is plentiful, but your good fortune could turn painful if you don’t meet overtime requirements. Whenever anything becomes plentiful and routine, supervision and other safeguards often become lacking.

Whether supervision is lacking or not, it will always be your sole responsibility to perform your duties properly. Your department will have written directives regarding overtime, and you should make yourself familiar with your responsibilities under those directives.

Daily Overtime Scenario

A police department is experiencing a spike in street robberies in a particular area of the city. Overtime funds are available to place extra patrols in the area. It has been decided to place police officers on foot patrol since the area is not that large, and the effectiveness of foot patrol is a proven tactic.

The ten officer deployment will literally saturate the area. Besides presenting a deterrent presence, the large deployment will ensure a rapid response to any robbery reported.

Up to now, it all sounds pretty good; however, what management usually neglects when making such deployments is supervision. 

They’ll pay ten police officers police overtime pay for eight hours, but they’ll be too cheap to pay a sergeant time and a half to supervise those ten police officers. Supervision isn’t completely neglected, because the sergeant in whose area the deployment occurs will probably be told to supervise the deployment.

Lack of Supervision - Police Overtime Pay

Of course, that sergeant who’s designated has just doubled his or her span of control. The simple truth is that deployment will receive very little, if any, effective supervision. To alleviate the need to use on duty officers to transport the deployment’s officers, the overtime officers are allowed to take their personal vehicles to their area of patrol.

Officers One and Two immediately team up and head for a donut shop located directly across the street from a nightclub. Officers One and Two will spend their entire shift between the donut shop and the nightclub making certain no pretty women become robbery victims. Officer One’s original designated area of patrol will go unmanned.

Officer Three will spend most of her shift sitting in her personal car studying for an upcoming exam for a college course she’s taking. Between chapters, she’ll be on her cell phone checking in with the babysitter.

Officer Four will spend much of his shift sitting in the back room of a convenience store watching Netflix. Officer Five will be the worst. He’ll simply go home for a late dinner and nap before returning to end his shift.

Officer Five is the Worst

While the above examples may seem extreme, it’s not as though they don’t happen. The first four officers are clearly under-performing, but they’re at least present. Officer Five, on the other hand, is simply a thief. The first four officers could be charged administratively for failing to properly perform their duties. Officer Five can, and should, be charged criminally for theft of the amount of money paid to him during his period of desertion.

If you ever find yourself performing duties during special overtime assignments, just remember that you’re a police officer. Some assignment duties may be very specific while others will be general in nature as in the example cited. Whatever the circumstances may be, you’re being paid — at a higher rate — to perform the duties for which you’re trained.

Always remember that abuse of police overtime pay is corruption. While poor oversight and supervision of overtime usage is nearly always the primary catalyst for overtime abuse, it is the end result that lands police officers in trouble. Corruption investigations into overtime abuse frequently result in police officers being indicted and charged criminally for theft.

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