As councillors were falling over themselves to support the addition of 58 positions to the complement of the Winnipeg Police Service they cited a variety of reasons why they thought it was a good move.
One, that I heard several times and which was even tacitly supported by the Mayor despite the fact he knows or should know it is false, is that the additional positions will reduce overtime.
Intuitively it seems reasonable to assume that as more officers are added, overtime expenditures should go down.
In order to truly appreciate the impact of an additional 58 positions one must consider two things: under what circumstances is police overtime generated, and how will the 58 new positions be deployed.
Police Overtime 101
Officers assigned to administrative duties, and inside (not on the street) supervisory roles have very limited opportunity to generate overtime. This is why when you look at the compensation disclosure documents you will see constables drawing higher pay cheques than Patrol Sergeants, Staff Sergeants and in some cases even Inspectors.
Categorization of Overtime
Overtime falls in a numbers of distinct categories:
1. Hold-over of uniform personnel – The Duty Inspector has the authority to extend officers’ shifts to address a backlog of high priority calls waiting in the dispatch queue.
2. Call Backs – The Collective agreement between the City and the union requires that each of the 3 shifts (day, evening and midnight) start with a minimum deployment of 27 2-officer units. In situations where a shift is short of staff due either to sick leave, temporary assignment or the like, Sergeants must try to ‘borrow’ officers from another division. If no other divisions have surplus officers, off duty officers are called out at the overtime rate to work a regular shift.
3. Report Writing – In some situations arrests are made close to the end of an officer’s shift. In circumstances where either due to necessity or policy, the report must be completed prior to the officer retiring from duty.
4. Ongoing Investigations – There are some instances where, due to the nature of the investigation (i.e. homicides), handing off the investigation to other officers at the end of the shift is not feasible. Additional officers may be assigned to work with by the original officers who are kept on at overtime rates to ensure the continuity of the investigation.
5. Operational Projects – Projects where a particular group or a particular activity is being targeted are “gas guzzlers” in terms of overtime consumption. Officers assigned to projects need to work flexible hours in keeping with the hours being kept by the target(s). Many projects require 24 hours surveillance for extended periods of time. Mobile surveillance of a single target on a 24 hours a day basis can require up to 14 officers depending on how surveillance conscious the target is.
6. Court – A substantial percentage of the police overtime budget is consumed by officers attending court on their days off or upon conclusion of their shift. Despite efforts such as the Court Overtime Reduction Project, court attendance still eats up vast amounts of overtime dollars.
Of the 58 new positions being created, only the 18 being assigned to general patrol will have any impact on reducing overtime. They may produce minimal savings in relation to reducing hold-overs and call-backs. Such savings, however, may well be eaten up by additional overtime related to report writing, ongoing investigations and court attendance generated by these same officers.
Twenty positions are destined for an expansion of the Gang Unit. Specialty units such as Gang Units are normally heavily involved in project work. These twenty positions will generate substantial additional overtime.
The 20 positions destined for foot patrol, unless they become a pool of officers that can be drawn on by uniform patrol divisions to fill in for shortages (in which case they would totally lose their effectiveness), will generate rather than eliminate overtime.
The Bottom Line
If the Mayor and councillors were led to believe that the addition of these 58 positions would save overtime dollars, they either failed to ask the right questions or they were misled.