May 7, 2011 9:49:00 PM
The city of Columbus is halfway through its 2011 fiscal year, and voted this week to nearly double the amount of overtime it pays its police officers -- adding $150,000 to the $200,000 it already had budgeted.
The lions'' share of this $350,000 goes to a handful of police officers -- the ones who volunteer to work the overtime shifts, with little oversight by Chief Joseph St. John, who frankly should have a better handle on who is working overtime, and when.
Don''t blame Police Cpl. Donnie Elkin -- a veteran officer who last year was the city''s highest-paid employee, earning more than $35,000 in overtime alone. And don''t blame Lt. Selvain McQueen, who we forecast will be the city''s highest paid employee in 2011. He''s on track to make more than $29,000 in overtime this fiscal year, which ends in September.
We believe we need every available officer on the streets. Overtime comes with the territory, especially when the department is short-staffed. Taxpayer dollars are well-spent on our police and fire departments.
However, we believe a handful of officers shouldn''t be doubling their salaries with time-and-a-half overtime pay. Police work is stressful and intense. An officer can''t be expected to be at his best working more than 26 hours of overtime per week -- the average weekly OT that Elkin clocked in 2010.
The volunteer system in place at the department needs to come to an end. Chief Joseph St. John, who we believe to be a capable crime-fighter, needs to provide more oversight and spread overtime pay more evenly.
Finally, we question whether local festivals need to either provide their own security, or contract with the police department to pay officers to work security details. The city should look to make better use of its reserve officers in these instances.
Who should the highest-paid city official be? We think it should be the city''s mayor, or the city''s chief administrator.
We respect the long hours put in by those officers who are bearing the heaviest burden of policing our city. But with all due respect, the highest-paid city employee shouldn''t be a police corporal.
The police department isn''t alone in racking up overtime. We believe most city departments should be doing a better job of reigning in overtime pay, and we will continue to analyze and report on different departments, both city and county, in the coming weeks.
As taxpayers, we expect and deserve the best possible oversight of our tax dollars by our elected and appointed officials.
zenreaper commented at 5/8/2011 8:44:00 AM:
When you have THAT much overtime, you obviously warrant a few more officers. Secondly, is the overtime being used properly? During the most recent "festival", there was an officer stationed, either sitting in his car or standing next to it, keeping TRUCKS from driving up Main Street. This despite the OBVIOUS orange blockade and the HUGE sign stating that no trucks were allowed. SHOULD a truck have entered, instead of PAYING an officer to block them, the city could have made a few dollars with a big fat ticket for the driver.
kj commented at 5/10/2011 11:52:00 AM:
Obviously the mayor and the chief administrator are important roles, but it seems rather shortsighted to arbitrarily dictate that they should be the highest paid. Compensation is about value, not about title. From a management perspective, the fact that a police corporal can out-earn both is perhaps an indication that they shouldn't necessarily be the highest paid; there's no policy in place to prevent an employee from working an average 66 hours per week over the course of an entire year.
And when you have a mayor that contributes to the need for police overtime by requiring them to respond to city hall fisticuffs for which there are ultimately no consequences, there may be bigger policy holes than the police overtime policy to be addressed.
rangle commented at 5/10/2011 4:19:00 PM:
Tell em kj!!!!!!! Great points
2. Our View: Time to set the Legislature straight on open meetings DISPATCH EDITORIALS
3. Voice of the people: Lori LeVar Pierce LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
4. Voice of the people: Elaine Hegwood LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
5. Local voices: Remembering Ed Phillips LOCAL COLUMNS