A Baltimore police officer who more than doubled her salary last year – collecting $111,279 in overtime pay alone – has been suspended for what sources tell The Brew were alleged infractions involving overtime pay documentation.
“Officer Julie A. Pitocchelli is currently suspended with pay,” BPD chief of strategic communications Matt Jablow said, through a spokesman, declining to discuss the reason for the action.
Pitocchelli, whose home phone number is listed as “disconnected or no longer in service,” could not be reached for comment.
Sources said she was suspended on June 12 for “time and attendance” issues.
A member of the BPD since October 1994, Pitocchelli was most recently listed in city records as assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division.
The online listing of city employee salaries shows Pitocchelli had an FY 2018 base pay of $87,006 – and, thanks to overtime, a gross pay of $198,285.
With that take-home pay, Pitocchelli out-earned the mayor, whose salary last year was $178,000.
She was one of a half dozen BPD officers who had had salaries in excess of the mayor’s thanks to overtime, highlighting a persistent problem at the agency that its new leader, Commissioner Michael Harrison, recently pledged to tackle.
Over the last five years, overtime costs have doubled, reaching nearly $50 million for a department of about 2,500 sworn officers.
Exemplifying the issue recently was Sgt. Ethan Newberg, the officer charged with false imprisonment for his rough treatment and arrest of a bystander caught on body camera video.
Newberg, like Pitocchelli, more than doubled his base salary via overtime, taking home $243,000 last year.
Years of High Overtime
Pitocchelli’s high 2018 overtime is hardly an anomaly, for her or for the BPD.
The veteran officer was profiled by The Brew last year as part of a three-part series, Overtime Abuse at the BPD, launched as overall law enforcement spending ballooned in recent years, dwarfing the city’s expenditures for parks, recreation centers, affordable housing, after-school programs and more.
Also rising, despite pledges of reform by the last two mayors, has been police overtime, which increased 66% between 2012 and 2017, from $28.6 million to $47.5 million, the Brew series reported.
Looking at data from 2017 and for previous years, The Brew found some patterns. Among them:
• The same officers tend to get large amounts of overtime year after year.
• The biggest amounts of overtime go to veterans with 15 to 25 years of seniority.
• High overtime was widespread, in 2017 pushing more than 900 Baltimore police personnel over the $100,000 pay threshold.
Pitocchelli, who has had postings in almost every police district during her nearly 25 years on the force, reflected these trends.
Pitocchelli’s overtime pay in FY2017, for example, did not exceed her base pay that year, but it came close.
Records show her receiving $76,274 in overtime on a salary of $84,472 for a total pay of $160,746.
The Brew series also looked at officer salary data from 2012 to 2017 and found that Pitocchelli, in total over those years, did have overtime exceeding her base pay.
The data show her from 2012 through 2017 collecting $546,569 in overtime on top of a base salary of $448,757 – for a total $995,326.
Understaffing? Or Abuse?
Pitocchelli’s suspension comes as Harrison, sworn in in March, takes on a problem that City Hall and union leaders have historically blamed largely on understaffing.
The high overtime totals, the union has said, reflect the agency’s efforts to maintain public safety amid persistently high rates of homicide and officer attrition.
But instances of overtime fraud by city police have also been well-documented, including the false overtime claims by members of the Gun Trace Task Force.
Federal prosecutors showed that members of the elite plainclothes unit had filed for overtime when they were actually gambling at the Maryland Live Casino or vacationing at Myrtle Beach.
GTTF officers filed for overtime when they were actually gambling at the Maryland Live Casino or vacationing at Myrtle Beach, federal prosecutors showed.
Last fall, when the city released the preliminary findings of a consultant’s report on police overtime, it became clear that the agency still had no way of knowing how much overtime was legitimate and how much unjustified or fraudulent.
The BPD “lacks internal controls that would allow the department to insure that officers are working all of the regular hours for which they are paid as well as to insure any overtime hours are necessary,” Finance Director Henry Raymond said at the time.
Could he estimate, a reporter asked Raymond, what percentage of the overtime is questionable?
“At this point, no. That will be part of phase-two, which is analytics,” Raymond replied, referring to a second report promised at an unspecified date.