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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter3:00 pmDec 9, 20140

Police overtime is forecast to reach a record level this year

$38 million in overtime projected this year. The previous high was $31.6 million during the O’Malley administration.

Above: Baltmore police are paid overtime to provide security at and near the new Horseshoe Casino.

Overtime spending by Baltimore Police is expected to swell to a record $38 million this year, Andrew W. Kleine, city budget director, told a City Council committee last night.

This level is 31% higher than the police overtime of $29 million last year, a cost not seen since the Martin O’Malley administration.

Kleine attributed a large portion of overtime spending to pay increases in the new contract negotiated between the Rawlings-Blake administration and the Fraternal Order of Police. The contract calls for a 13% wage increase for police officers over three years.

Ratified last spring, the contract will cause overtime pay to increase by $8 million, according to Kleine. Funds to pay for the costs were not allocated in the current budget because the negotiations were completed late in the budget process, Kleine said.

When Budget Committee chairwoman Helen L. Holton noted that police overtime was “one of the biggest areas of overspending concern of the budget,” Kleine replied, “Now our challenge is how to absorb [the pay increase] going forward.”

Councilman James B. Kraft asked how the city could negotiate pay increases when the money wasn’t in the budget? “We knew it would be a challenge,” Kleine answered, “but we will get more boots on the ground ” under the new police contract.

He was referring to a work schedule going into effect on January 11 that will give Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts more flexibility to deploy officers at “peak hours of crime” on regular pay, rather than rely on overtime.

Kleine said he expects overtime costs to start declining once the new system gets underway and said he hopes the $38 million overtime estimate will prove to be too high.

Police at Horseshoe Casino

A source of police overtime adding to this year’s costs is the addition of officers stationed in and around the 24-hour-a-day Horseshoe Casino on Russell Street.

Eleven officers have been placed by Commissioner Batts on overtime at a new “casino mini-district” that surrounds the gambling facility.

The officers supplement the seven officers and four supervisors who are being paid with a $1.5 million “local impact grant” aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the casino on South Baltimore communities. (Last night, police arrested a convicted felon in the casino who had left a stolen and loaded handgun in his parked car.)

The mini-district, headquartered in two construction trailers a block north of the casino, operates 20 hours a day, using three shifts of police. During its four-hour down period, 911 calls are handled by Southern District police.

The total cost of city police at the casino has not been disclosed to the Local Development Council chaired by state Sen. William C. Ferguson IV. The group is scheduled to vote next week on whether to spend $1.6 million in impact grants for casino-related policing in fiscal 2016.

Persistent Source of Criticism

Police overtime has been a persistent source of criticism of the department going back to the O’Malley era. It was discussed at length in a $285,000 strategic study ordered last year by Batts from a team of consultants led by former LAPD Chief William J. Braxton.

Overtime ballooned to $31.6 million under Mayor O’Malley in fiscal 2007. It declined sharply during the administration of Sheila Dixon – to a low of $16.7 million in fiscal 2010 – then rose again under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

In fiscal 2012, the city spent $23 million in police overtime and in fiscal 2013 a little below $25 million – before making a leap to $29 million last year during Batts’ first full year of command.

The commissioner and Mayor Stephanie Rawling-Blake have pointed to a lower number of homicides this year – as well as sharply fewer citizen complaints about police – as fruits of his leadership.

His “targeted crime reduction initiatives” in West Baltimore, McElderry Park and elsewhere have increased overtime costs projected for the current year, according to a handout at last night’s hearing.

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