City police slashing overtime to curb deficit Training will be cut

patrols might be reduced

February 15, 1996|By Peter Hermann and Eric Siegel | Peter Hermann and Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Police Department is slashing overtime costs by $25,000 per week, which will result in cuts in training and possibly some reduced foot patrols, commanders said yesterday.

But the cuts, part of an effort to keep a $3.3 million deficit from growing, will not appreciably hinder the department's crime-fighting abilities, they said.

"If we get a homicide that requires 10 detectives to work overtime in attempts to solve that crime, overtime will not have a bearing," said police spokesman Sam Ringgold.

The reductions, which represent 25 percent of overtime costs, will last 4 1/2 months. The Police Department's deficit comes on top of a $9.2 million revenue shortfall in the city's operating budget and a deficit in the school system that is about twice that amount.

City budget officials have been working on a plan to balance the budget, the details of which Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he will release this week or next.

They stressed that police overtime reductions would not be used to cover the city's revenue shortfall or part of the school system deficit. They also said any savings would be applied to the Police Department.

"They're not bailing out education in any way," said William R. Brown Jr., the finance director. He said he expected the Police Department to finish the fiscal year that ends June 30 with a deficit of about $3 million -- about 1.5 percent of its annual $206 million budget.

About half of the Police Department deficit, or $1.6 million, comes from overtime costs incurred during last month's blizzard, when the snowbound department stepped up its patrols to make sure there was not a repeat of the looting that accompanied a 1979 storm. The city hopes to get at least some of the money back from federal emergency funds.

The remainder of the department's deficit is split between the bureaus of criminal investigation and patrol. Both bureaus spent large sums on sophisticated crime-fighting equipment, such as cameras for undercover officers. The department also spent heavily on security for the week that Cal Ripken Jr. broke baseball's consecutive games record, and for the visit of Pope John Paul II.

The department's plan to cut overtime drew a sharp reaction from Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the police union.

"We're concerned. A lot of cases can't be solved during an 8-hour day," he said. "Criminals don't work on a clock or a fixed schedule. We have to be available when things go bad."

The overtime reductions will total about $500,000. The department still will spend about $1.5 million on overtime for the rest of the fiscal year. The Police Department annually budgets about $4.7 million for overtime costs.

The plan for overtime reductions was first detailed in a Feb. 2 memo to police commanders from Col. Joseph R. Bolesta Jr., chief of the human relations bureau.

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