8 Chicago cops among highest OT earners: Report - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

8 Chicago cops among highest OT earners: Report

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

FOX 32 News is taking a look at public employees and their overtime paychecks. Some of the biggest ones are going to a select number of Chicago police officers.

A report by the Chicago Sun-Times found eight Chicago police officers were among the Top 20 overtime earners in the city last year. Those officers saw an average of more than $79,000 in overtime pay on top of their annual salaries.

The amount of overtime pay is connected to the violence reduction initiative that Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy put into place.

When the mayor ran for office, Emanuel said he would hire 1,000 more police officers. But the semantics changed when he was elected, due to the crippling violent crime in Chicago during that time. Emanuel then said the city would put 1,000 police officers on the streets.

One sergeant in the Chicago Police Department made $95,000 in overtime last year, on top of his $105,000 salary. Other officers made between $50,000 and $10,000 in overtime pay.

Chicago spent a total of $103 million on overtime in 2013. That's $10 million more than McCarthy projected when FOX 32 asked him about how much the city would have to pay in overtime to carry out the violence reduction initiative.

The overtime numbers have ignited a new debate about full-time hiring. Some aldermen are calling on Mayor Emanuel to do more. Aldermen like Bob Fioretti are concerned that the number of hours current officers are asked to work will lead to burnout, and limit the efficacy of their patrols.

But city officials contend paying the overtime is still cheaper and more cost-effective in the long run, when you take into account health benefits in addition to salary.

And McCarthy even predicts taxpayers will face a smaller bill for police overtime this year than the $100 million they paid in 2013.

Adam Collins, Director of News Affairs at Chicago Police Department, pointed out to FOX 32 that the overtime numbers in the report can be misleading. The $95,000 in overtime pay in the report actually went to a detective, who is not part of the violence reduction initiative. Collins said anytime a detective goes to court or does surveillance they get paid overtime – separate from the initiative.

Collins also told FOX 32 that the city has been focused on getting more police officers on the street, and they have made great strides. He said there were 9,718 cops on the street in January 2014. That's up from December of 2011, when there were only 9,496. The department has also added 742 new recruits in 2013, up from 600 the city pledged early on.\

That sort of overtime may decline.

Supt Garry McCarthy said what will go down are the huge O.T. payments related to Operation Impact, the department's anti-violence initiative launched last year amid worldwide attention on Chicago's murder rate.

With the total number of murders down dramatically, some of the political heat is off.

Yet that is not why officials say the overtime bill will drop in 2014 for Operation Impact, a program that flooded a few high-violence neighborhoods that has up to 500 officers in high-profile patrols.

At first, all were on overtime. Now, about 360 are new hires, like the Police Academy class that graduated Friday.

"When we started Operation Impact, we did it exclusively on overtime. Over the course of the year, as the graduating classes came to maturity, through their training, after their field training, we folded each of their classes into the impact zones and cut back on the overtime. So, now the overtime we spent last year is at about half of where it was," McCarthy said.

The Sun-Times reported that police department employees collected more than half the city's $197 million overtime payments last year.

Police overtime work is voluntary and offered based on seniority.

While the union representing police officers argues that all the overtime reflects a need to hire hundreds of additional cops, personnel experts say that would end up costing taxpayers more, that overtime actually saves tax dollars.

A spokesman for Supt. McCarthy insisted the department does have more cops out on the street than were there when Mayor Emanuel took office. They disputed a Tribune report to the contrary.

Supt. McCarthy was on Good Day Chicago recently, talking about the 50% reduction in crime for January of 2014, compared to January of 2013.

A discussion on these new numbers and on the way we fight Chicago crime is likely on the way, as these new overtime figures from the Sun-Times circulate.

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