Police OT pay tops 6 figures

Three accused of abuse were paid more than mayor

February 14, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,Sun reporter

Six Baltimore police officers who have been suspended with pay over allegations that they abused overtime each made more than $100,000 in the 2006 fiscal year, with two officers more than doubling their base pay, according to city salary data reviewed by The Sun.

The officers all worked in the Eastern District last summer when an internal audit uncovered possible "irregularities" with their overtime pay, police have said. Police officials placed the four officers and two sergeants on administrative duties last week, meaning their law enforcement powers are suspended.

The highest-paid of the six, Sgt. Darryl Massey, earned a base salary of $71,361; with overtime, he took home $141,077 in the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, the city records show.

Mayor Sheila Dixon has pressured the Police Department to rein in overtime spending, which regularly exceeded budgeted projections under the administration of Martin O'Malley. With less than half the current fiscal year remaining, the department has spent more than $21 million on overtime, more than twice the $8.7 million it had budgeted for the year.

About 120 of the department's 3,000 sworn law enforcement members made $100,000 or more in the last fiscal year, most with the help of overtime, city records show. That includes seven top commanders whose yearly pay tops $100,000 but who do not receive overtime.

Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm earns $153,000. Mayor Sheila Dixon's salary is $125,000. Gov. Martin O'Malley makes $150,000.

Some of the suspended officers earned more than Dixon. City records show that two more than doubled their salary with overtime -- Kevin R. Turner made a total of $116,022 and Dave P. Peckoo made $128,303. Other officers being investigated are Raynard H. Jones, with a total $125,676 salary, Sandra D. Forsythe with $106,937 and Kerry D. Snead with $104,858. The base salary for these officers ranged from $55,000 to nearly $70,000.

Matt Jablow, a department spokesman, declined to comment on the overtime investigation. But he said the department needed to spend more money on overtime in the last two years because of crime spikes and a shortage of officers.

In fiscal 2006, the department spent $29 million on overtime, about $10 million more than in the previous year, according to department figures. In fiscal 2004, overtime spending totaled $15.6 million.

Jablow said that crime increased in Baltimore early last year -- particularly homicides and shootings -- and the department had to deal with the issue by using overtime. By the end of last year, homicides and robberies increased slightly, while total violent crime was down, according to police figures.

The department was also grappling with a high attrition rate -- with officers retiring or leaving the force for jobs elsewhere -- and commanders used overtime to fill in for the vacancies.

"That's the way we had to do it because we were down officers," Jablow said. "Now, our attrition rate is slowing; ... we're getting a much better handle on our overtime."

Through early February, violent crime is down 20 percent in Baltimore, though homicides continue at about the same pace as last year. The department remains short about 160 officers -- or an average of nearly 18 officers per district.

Paul M. Blair Jr., president of the city police union, said commanders assigned many officers last year to work 12-hour shifts, which added to overtime costs. And top commanders began requiring sergeants and lieutenants in the city's nine districts to submit enforcement statistics at the end of each shift -- which caused mid-level supervisors to claim overtime when they worked more than eight hours, Blair said.

So far, Blair said, a biweekly cap on overtime for each district hasn't triggered complaints from officers, who in the past have worried about being short-handed out on the streets.

"The minute [commanders] start saying, `No, we'll go out short' -- then you'll hear me loud and clear, screaming to anybody who will listen to me."

Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Dixon, said the mayor acknowledges the "very important job done by police officers.

"She recognizes that we ask them to do a very noble and dangerous job," he said. "But the citizens also expect us to be fiscally responsible with their tax dollars.

Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr., who is running for City Council president, said he is sponsoring a resolution that would require the department to give quarterly briefings to city leaders on their overtime spending.

"Every other city agency stays within its budget for the most part, barring emergencies," Harris said. "But the Police Department has a history of running over ... because nobody wants to be criticized for not supporting police and [not] fighting crime."

In response to the budgetary pressure, police commanders have limited overtime spending for each of the city's nine police districts to $30,000 per two-week pay period.

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