Up to 67 Percent of Police Overtime Paid Was Unauthorized in 2016
The Albuquerque Police Department exceeded its overtime budget by $3.9 million in 2016, and up to 67 percent of all APD overtime requests might not have been properly authorized, according to a report by the city’s Office of Internal Audit.
The nearly $4 million in excess overtime costs are on top of a recurring and anticipated overtime budget that has skyrocketed from $6 million in 2007 to $9 million last year as APD has struggled to cope with a severely understaffed department.
In the past, APD has routinely exceeded its overtime budget, but the latest trend began in 2012, just as the department was beginning to shrink, the audit said, adding that excessive overtime expenditures might continue into near future.
Mayor Richard Berry violated the police union contract in 2010 by reneging on a scheduled pay raise, which triggered the exodus of officers that APD has labored to stop.
“The trends … suggest that APD’s actual overtime may continue to be over budget by an increasing amount in future fiscal years,” the audit says.
The department is budgeted for 1,000 officers but has only 844.
The police union says an absence of leadership at City Hall is to blame.
“This [the overtime] is directly related to the staffing problems at APD and it should not come as a surprise to anyone,” Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association President Shaun Willoughby said.
“We are waiting for somebody in this city to take ownership of Albuquerque’s failed policy,” he said. “We need 1,200 to 1,300 police officers.”
APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza said the department had several unforeseen overtime expenses last year, including, “mandated training as a result of our Settlement Agreement [with the U.S. Department of Justice]. Officers that would come in for training would be on overtime.”
Willoughby dismissed Espinoza’s claim that DOJ required training was to blame.
“I don’t know of a single officer who has received overtime for DOJ training. Ninety-nine percent of the officers are forced to adjust their shifts to do the DOJ training,” Willoughby said. “We’ve had increased protests, increases in homicides, holiday tactical plans, burglary tactical plans, narcotics tactical plans and increased calls for field officers.”
Lack of OT authorization may be widespread
According to APD’s Standard Operating Procedure, requests for overtime work by officers must be pre-approved by a supervisor. But that hasn’t been happening. In a sample testing of 24 overtime requests, auditors found there was no pre-approval documentation in 67 percent of the requests.
“APD personnel do not consistently follow Standard operating Procedures for pre-approving and recording overtime transactions,” the audit said. “The SOP’s have specific requirements that must be followed when pre-approving and recording overtime transactions.
If the failure to obtain pre-approval found in the sample holds across all overtime charges, there are “potentially 37,942 transactions that may not have been pre-approved, and that might not have been unauthorized.”
Espinoza said the department is working to revamp its overtime procedures. “We are currently reviewing the existing SOP for overtime and we have reached out to a few law enforcement agencies for their policies,” Espinoza said, adding that other efforts include redesigning and distributing reports for monitoring overtime.
“We have currently launched a pilot project in two of the area commands,” Espinoza said. “We are hoping to go live within a month.”
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