City and police union continue debate on wages, overtime; police overtime topped $1M last year
photo by: Journal-World Illustration
Last year, Lawrence police officers and detectives made about $1.1 million in overtime and double-time pay, accounting for 40 percent of the overtime paid by the city across all departments. As contracts and budgets are being hashed out, how to manage police overage pay is up for debate.
Deadlines regarding the city’s budget and contract negotiations with the local police officers union are approaching, and disagreements about double-time pay and how much police schedules can be adjusted to manage overtime have been key sticking points. City representatives have proposed eliminating double-time pay and adding language to ensure the police chief has the ability to adjust schedule assignments to reduce overtime, but police union representatives have said such changes would take away warranted overage pay.
Of the $1.1 million of overage pay earned by police in 2017, about 12 percent, or $126,000, was double-time pay, according to records the city provided to the Journal-World. The records indicate about 41 percent was paid to detectives and the remainder to officers.
About $153,000 of the total overtime pay was covered by reimbursements from event organizers who requested a larger police presence at their events, and that money went to the officers covering those events.
How overage pay is calculated
There are two key characteristics regarding how overage pay is calculated for the police department under the current contract, which expires at the end of this year. For one, officers and detectives accumulate overtime whenever they work beyond their daily shift, not just beyond 40 hours in a pay period, according to the current contract. Secondly, if an officer or detective works more than 12 hours in “any one day,” hours beyond the 12th hour are paid at double time.
Individual detectives and officers made anywhere from $75 to $61,000 in overage pay last year, according to data on kansasopengov.org. As a result, a dozen officers and detectives made more than $100,000 last year, according to the data.
The city originally proposed eliminating the daily accrual of overtime in most circumstances. Under that proposal, overtime would only have begun to accrue when an officer worked more than 12 hours in a single shift or more than 40 hours in a pay period. The city has since changed its proposal to keep the daily accrual of overtime intact.
The city has also proposed that the police chief be able to change officers’ schedules and work cycles, the six-month period where officers have the same patrol assignment, with reasonable notice when they accrue more than a shift’s worth of overtime in a pay period. In addition, the city previously proposed that double-time pay be replaced with the standard time and a half, but has since backtracked on that and has indicated it would be willing to pay double time under certain circumstances.
The Lawrence Police Officers Association wants to maintain double-time pay and does not want the chief to have the ability to change work cycles due to overtime.
Total overtime pay by city
Topeka: $1.46 million (population about 127,000)
Olathe: $1.3 million (population about 135,000)
Lawrence: $1.1 million (population about 97,000)
Shawnee: $750,000 (population about 65,000)
Lenexa: $550,000 (population around 53,000)
What causes overtime
Both city and LPOA representatives declined the Journal-World’s request for an interview for this article because of the ongoing contract negotiations. Police department representatives, though, did provide general information about overtime.
Sgt. Amy Rhoads said in an email to the Journal-World that several factors drive overtime pay for the department, including challenges in staffing levels and major crime investigations, such as homicides, robberies and shootings. She said other factors included receiving calls for service toward the end of a shift, writing reports, making court appearances and working special events.
The police department’s overage pay has been increasing significantly over the past couple of years. The city paid police about $770,000 of overage pay in 2015 and about $915,000 in 2016, according to a previous review by the Journal-World. The $1.1 million paid last year represents a 42 percent increase from 2015, and brings the department’s overage pay to 9 percent of its overall payroll costs.
When asked how the police department currently oversees overtime, Rhoads said that overtime is overseen and tracked by each officer’s or detective’s immediate supervisor. She said supervisors consistently work to minimize overtime throughout the department, but that factors leading to overtime are often not within the department’s control.
When asked if there are particular circumstances or changes that resulted in the increase in overtime the past couple of years, Rhoads noted changes in staffing and major crime investigations. She said overtime over the last few years has gone up because of natural attrition and several retirements and that overtime was used to ensure appropriate staffing levels. For 2017 in particular, Rhoads cited the triple homicide investigation and “several other major investigations” where overtime was necessary.
An ongoing debate
Lawrence Police Officers Association Chairman Drew Fennelly has previously said during negotiations that it’s not good for the individual officers or the public when police work beyond 12 hours but some situations necessitate it. In those cases, he has said that double-time pay adequately compensates officers and detectives when they work those extreme shifts. Because officers accrue overtime daily, Fennelly has also expressed concerns that schedule changes allow officers to have overtime pay “taken away” should they be asked to take days off to offset overtime.
The debate about overtime and double-time pay relates to two of the city’s main goals throughout negotiations. Those are bringing police department policies in line with those of other city departments and ensuring the union contract does not take away from management rights stipulated in the local resolution governing employee unions. The resolution states that management rights extend to several components and are not subject to negotiation. Those include the right to direct the work of employees; maintain the efficiency of governmental operations; and initiate, prepare, certify and administer the budget.
Overtime and double-time pay is just one of the components of the contract related to compensation that the city and LPOA have yet to agree on. Other sticking points include the contract’s wage increase, longevity pay, shift differential and compensation for court appearances. The LPOA is proposing a 3 percent general wage increase for 2019 and 2020, but the city has not agreed to that. The city commissioned a study on the pay provided in nearby cities, and its proposal states that pay is already market competitive and that the city is therefore proposing no general wage increase for 2019 and a 1 percent increase for 2020. The city’s wage proposal is conditioned on reaching an agreement on all other unresolved items.
The most recent discussions from the city and police union representatives indicate the city may be willing to remove the provision regarding alterations to work cycles and pay double time as long as the 12 hours worked in a day are worked consecutively, but Fennelly said at a negotiations meeting Friday that the LPOA had not seen the movement in the financial terms that it had hoped for and asked that all future meetings involve the previously assigned mediator.
“We feel these negotiations are a house of cards where any one card can bring the whole thing down,” Fennelly said. “Because of that, we don’t feel we can make any progress on this document without the assistance of a mediator.”
City Manager Tom Markus agreed to that and said that he thinks the city did make a major concession regarding compensation by agreeing to continue to fund the department’s current pay plan. Previously, the city proposed a new pay plan based on the salary study that provided some wage increases to certain levels and also required officers to rise to a new rank of master police officer to reach the top of the pay scale.
The city’s budget and contract negotiations both have approaching deadlines.
The city and the LPOA began mediated negotiations July 11, and the resolution stipulates that if the negotiating parties are still at an impasse one week after the first mediated discussion, the parties must then exchange their last proposals in writing on the unresolved issues. If impasse continues three days after the exchange, the proposals will be submitted to the City Commission and the commission will hold a public hearing and decide which proposal to accept.
For the city’s budget, the commission will authorize the maximum amount of expenditures for the 2019 budget at its meeting Tuesday. Once the maximum expenditure amount is set, the commission can only adjust the budget downward. The public hearing and first reading of the budget is scheduled for Aug. 7.