Councilors Worry Police Working Excessive Overtime

Advertisement

Two council members are concerned with the amount of overtime the town's police officers are accruing.

Police Chief Gordon Gartner said the department has 30 officers and will soon be fully staffed this week with a new hire.

Of the 30 PPD employees, there are 12 patrol officers, six patrol sergeants and two school-resource officers, one chief and one police commander.

Councilor Tim Fruth said overtime is a big issue in the Payson Police Department where almost every officer is working a high amount of overtime.

In one instance, an officer, who is earning $60,000 annually, received another $31,000 for the overtime hours he worked this past fiscal year.

A 2007 salary survey done by Public Safety Personnel Consultants revealed that the median salary of a PPD officer is $45,727.

In a ride along a few months ago with Payson officer Mike Varga, he mentioned that working five 10-hour shifts was not uncommon for him, though he was not complaining about the additional pay.

Without the overtime, an officer would normally work four 10-hour shifts.

This past year, Varga worked 225.5 overtime hours, while his wife, Joni, who is also a Payson officer, worked 376 hours of overtime.

Fruth said some officers have talked to him about the overtime issue, though there are many who like the extra money.

Fruth said he simply asked one day how much overtime town employees were working.

Councilman Andy Romance said the issue came to light when the town was discussing the pay-rate study, adding there was an inquiry on how much employees really making when adding the overtime pay into the salaries.

"It's part of the wage, and you become dependent on that wage," Romance said. "It's all part of the process."

Fruth said he is not anti-police and believes the town has top-notch officers, but added he is concerned about their well-being because there is only so much overtime a person can handle.

"It definitely has added to the stress level, which equates to overtime," Fruth said. "I have talked to many officers who said they are being pushed to the limit. It's just a quality of life thing.

"It leads to burnout, and burnouts do not help families. We are concerned about the officers."

Acceptable overtime, he said, should be in the range of 10 to 15 percent or four to six hours a week.

Fruth said a good baseline for acceptable overtime would be between 200 to 300 hours a year.

Mayor Bob Edwards said one would expect overtime in the police department to be between 15 to 18 percent, a figure the police department is well over.

"That is an issue we will have to look at," Edwards said.

Edwards said he has been told that there is one officer in the community for every 500 residents, which is typical for a small town. Police departments in large metropolitan cities cannot meet that same threshold.

As an example, Edward said, one officer for 500 residents in New York, would never work because of the millions of people who live there.

The ratio in Payson, Gartner said, is 1.8 officers for every 1,000 residents when adding Star Valley into the mix.

Fruth said he understands shifts have to be covered, and certain officers are more willing to work overtime to fill the shifts.

Romance said there are times where overtime cannot be helped.

"It is not bad if there is an emergency call. Go for it," Romance said. "Some of the overtime is not for (emergencies)."

Overtime hours are now being used for numerous areas, including paperwork, follow-up investigations, training, court-related cases, special projects and the DARE program.

Gartner agreed that overtime is an issue, and added that sometimes it cannot be helped.

Some of the overtime amounts officers were paid in the last fiscal year includes additional pay of $36,000 and two $19,000 amounts.

"(Overtime amounts to) well over six figures," Fruth said.

Gartner said if an officer works too many overtime hours, his or her productivity will suffer as well as the quality of life.

However, the police chief said, shifts must be covered.

"We do not have an abundance of staff," he said. "There is no wiggle room."

Taking on coverage of Star Valley has likely increased the department's overtime hours. Since July 1, when the PPD took over police service for Star Valley, there have been 267 calls and 10 arrests.

By comparison, there were 2,108 calls in Payson for the month of August.

"It's a busy little place," Gartner said, talking about Star Valley.

The question, Fruth said, is whether hiring another police officer would reduce overtime.

Gartner hopes the overtime situation will soon change as the department this week will be fully staffed for the first time in three years.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.