May 15, 2018 10:56:10 AM
For the past 80 years, overtime pay has been a standard practice in the workplace. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, employers were required to pay hourly workers at a higher rate for working more than 40 hours in a work week.
The idea was meant to address special circumstances and it is common business practice for supervisors to manage the amount of overtime of their employees. When overtime becomes the rule, rather than the exception, it's a pretty good sign that something is wrong.
Sunday, through a Freedom of Information Act request, The Dispatch reported one officer in the Columbus Police Department's investigation division had accumulated 335.25 hours of overtime in the first four months of 2018. Three other officers in the department had amassed a combined 505 overtime hours.
When that amount of overtime is accrued, it's a pretty clear indicator that something is not working as planned.
Is the investigations division understaffed? Possibly. Another possibility is the mismanagement of overtime, perhaps through inattention or in an effort to reward officers who supervisors feel are under-paid.
Either way, the CPD needs to take a hard look at its overtime practice. Are those overtime hours really necessary? In Sunday's story, it was reported the officer with the most overtime drove Mayor Robert Smith and city planner George Irby on a two-day trip to New Orleans for a housing conference. Was that a necessary expense, given the amount of overtime the officer had already been accruing? It's a hard case to make. The mayor provided no reason for having the officer serve as his driver, other than to say he had the authority to do it. That's hardly a satisfying answer.
The work of our police department is important work, and no one will criticize the use of overtime when it is used to address critical needs and situations.
Chauffeuring the mayor does not qualify as a critical need.
If, instead, the overtime accrued by these officers is an effort to compensate them more, it is the wrong approach. If officer pay is too low, it should be addressed through adjusting the budget and scale pay in the CPD.
Investigations may need more staffing, but we can absolutely say that any overtime earned being the mayor's chauffeur is a gross mismanagement of resources.
1. Possumhaw: Letting your imagination run wild LOCAL COLUMNS