In Fiscal Sparring Match, City Council Imposes 13% Cut on Police Overtime
Friday, February 24, 2012 • 10:58pm
PATERSON, NJ – The City Council Friday night cut the police overtime budget by about $213,000, a move that could leave the department very little money to spend on officers’ overtime for the next four months.
But police officials said they hoped to work out an arrangement with the council to prevent the budget cut from compromising public safety. More than simply setting fiscal policy, council members seemed to be trying to send the police department a message, particularly in light of the police union’s refusal to have its members testify at the city council’s hearings on the flood overtime.
At first, City Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris recommended cutting the police department’s $1.5 million overtime account in half during Friday’s departmental budget hearing.
“I can’t operate that way,’’ responded Police Director Glenn Brown.
“When you reach the point where you need it, come talk to us,’’ Morris said.
“I absolutely need it,’’ Brown fired back. “Everything I do is driven by keeping people on the street…I’ve got to cancel details for tonight, tomorrow night and going forward.’’
Morris then suggested cutting the police overtime budget by $500,000. Brown still was upset. “I have to stop people I have scheduled to work,’’ the police director said.
“Meaning no police protection?’’ interjected Business Administrator Charles Thomas.
“Are you saying the only time we have police protection is when we pay them overtime?’’ Morris asked.
In the end, Morris set the fiscal 2012 police overtime budget at $1,286,609, the same amount spent last year and 13 percent less than what was in the preliminary budget. In the first seven months of this fiscal year, through the end of January, Paterson already has spent $1,025,975 on police overtime, according to deputy chief Danny Nichols.
That leaves about $260,000 in the police overtime account, and some of that money already has been spent during the first 24 days of February, officials said.
During Friday’s hearing, Brown told the council he often used overtime to pay his detectives to investigate murders, shootings and other significant crimes. “Right now, the investigative section is stretched very thin,’’ Brown said.
Thomas also said the overtime was used to offset manpower shortages stemming from last April’s layoff of 125 officers.
Police overtime spending has been ongoing issue of contention among city officials during the past six months. In the fall, the city council refused to approve $209,000 in city overtime, much of it for the police and fire departments, prompting unions representing those employees to file grievances that are still pending.
Morris has asked the administration to block any additional overtime payments for city police officers until the department provides more information to substantiate the need for the work. But the administration has continued to issue police overtime checks, prompting Morris to set in motion a resolution designed to formally prevent overtime from being paid without the city council’s consent.
Meanwhile, the council has been wrestling with the Policemen’s Benevolent Association to try to enforce flood inquiry subpoenas the city council issued to two deputy chiefs as well as to seven rank-and-file members who received the largest overtime payments stemming from last summer’s historic floods.
In court on Friday afternoon, a judge issued a ruling temporarily upholding the PBA’s attempt to quash the subpoenas, according to a story on northjersey.com. The judge scheduled a full hearing on the issue for March 13.