Police overtime in Baltimore has been reduced in recent years, but it remains largely unsupervised and conducted in violation of the department’s own policies, auditors conclude in a wide-ranging report released today.
The 15 major findings by the State Office of Legislative Audits were not contested in a January 10 response to the audit by Commissioner Richard J. Worley Jr., who promised a new “completion date” for reforming overtime practices – May 31, 2024.
Late today, however, BPD’s media office issued a press release saying, “We do not believe the report itself reflects a full picture of the circumstances (including the Covid-19 pandemic) that led to the results in the findings.”
Reviewing the 18-month period between December 20, 2020 and May 31, 2022, the audit found that “all levels” of BPD supervision failed to effectively monitor $66.5 million in overtime, some of it charged back to event organizers that call on police resources.
“Command and administrative management personnel did not effectively use available overtime data to monitor the use of overtime or take disciplinary action to establish accountability and deter repeated violations when warranted,” wrote State Auditor Gregory A. Hook in the 56-page report.
“Our testing and analyses disclosed a consistent, department-wide lack of effective and meaningful front-line supervisory review,” he continued. “These [deficiencies] occurred for extended periods without being identified and resolved, and contributed to excessive overtime being paid to certain officers.”
Specifically, the audit found that:
• Only 29% of overtime was directly attributable to officer shortages in the force, with the majority of overtime either discretionary or requested by an outside entity.
• 268 officers, sergeants and lieutenants exceeded the department’s weekly overtime limit a total of 693 times.
• 100 officers each recorded more than 1,000 hours of overtime in 2022, with several officers racking up six figures in overtime pay.
• In violation of departmental policy, 70% of overtime requests were approved after, not before, overtime was performed.
• BPD did not have properly executed agreements with groups like the Horseshoe Casino and the Maryland Stadium Authority, which employs BPD officers as security at Ravens and Orioles games, leaving overtime payments largely undocumented.
• Over $16 million paid out in overtime was not properly recorded in Workday, the city’s payroll system.
Harrison’s Reforms Falter
Police overtime pay is subject to various legal requirements, including the city’s collective bargaining agreements with the Fraternal Order of Police, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, internal directives from the police commissioner, and published manuals and policies.
Following the Gun Trace Task Force trial and media reports documenting overtime abuses, incoming Police Commissioner Michael Harrison promised to tighten overtime requirements and shift from a paper system to Workday’s online platform.
• “BIG DOLLARS, LITTLE OVERSIGHT,” a 2018 Brew series on police overtime and follow-up reports.
The goal was to bring scheduling consistency to the BPD – to ensure that each shift in each district had adequate personnel, that officer fatigue was reduced and that overtime was pre-approved and integral to crime-reduction efforts.
In 2021 and 2022, the Workday system was implemented, and Harrison’s new rules, including a detailed Manual for Payroll Processes and updated Overtime Policy, were put into effect.
Top Overtime Earners Disclosed
The legislative audit found that Harrison’s directives were simply not being obeyed either at the district station or downtown headquarters.
A detailed look at 100 officers determined that some of them were consistently given 25 hours or more a week in overtime that, at one-and-a-half times their regular pay, doubled their annual earnings.
The highest recipient was a “sergeant on the SWAT team.” according to the audit – a man The Brew can identify as William Harris, Jr. through public payroll records.
Awarded an average of 37.5 hours of overtime each week – the vast majority coming from “secondary employment” – Harris was paid $265,609 in fiscal 2022.
That was $69,000 more than Brandon Scott got as mayor in 2022, and $20,000 more than Harris made in 2017 when his pay was featured in a Brew investigative story:
Another high-earning overtimer can be identified as Kimberly Swinton.
Benefiting from 30.4 hours in average weekly overtime, she earned $237,489 in 2022, or a sizable jump from the $200,452 paycheck she received when she was profiled by The Brew:
“Hard stopping” Overtime Rejected
In response to today’s report, Commissioner Worley said he would institute quarterly overtime reports by May 31, 2024. (Such reports were supposed to have started under Harrison, whom Worley replaced last June.)
In addition, Worley said the department would:
• move its Excel files used to monitor the payroll to a new “overtime dashboard.”
• provide additional officer training on payroll policy compliance.
• mandate monthly training for repeat offenders of overtime policy, as identified by the quarterly audits and command review.
• improve the distribution of overtime “in a fair and equitable manner” across the workforce.
Furthermore, Worley says, the agency is in the final stages of handing over secondary employment scheduling to an unnamed third party.
Worley blamed staff shortages at the Performance Standards Section as a leading cause for the department’s lack of financial oversight.
“Once staff are hired, the PSS teams will amend the scope of their audits to address higher-risk items called out in [today’s] audit and expand the sampling methodology to cover excessive overtime, violations of the 32-hour rules and pre-authorization [of overtime],” Worley said.
“Hard stopping” improper overtime pay “would have a consequential negative impact on morale” – Richard Worley.
He noted that the department rejected a plan to “hard stop” – or freeze overtime payments – for officers who did not correctly enter their overtime on Workday.
“BPD felt with the staffing shortages and the value on retaining employees that this would have a consequential negative impact on morale,” he wrote.
Instead, the agency was contemplating what he called a “medium stop” where overtime would not be paid, but an officer’s regular pay and other benefits would continue.
“This was the path that was being explored. However, in late 2022, BPD was informed that this restriction was not available in Workday,” Worley told the auditors.
“BPD had been working on an alternative approach via auditing,” he noted, before the audit report was sent to them, and they had to respond publicly to its findings.