PATERSON, NJ – With more than three months left in the fiscal year, the Paterson police department has just $83,000 left in its police overtime budget, city officials said last week.
That’s how much was left in the overtime account after the city council approved the most recent overtime payments at its meeting on March 6. The remaining money represents about six percent of the department’s total overtime budget of $1,286,209, but there’s still 30 percent of the fiscal year ahead between now and June 30.
“Woefully inadequate,’’ Police Director Glenn Brown told the city council on Tuesday when told of how much he had left. “My situation in the streets is not changing any,’’ Brown added, saying that overtime was critical to various “special operations” targeting street crime.
“He’s going to be almost mandated to protect the public safety to call people out,’’ on overtime, said Business Administrator Charles Thomas.
As the city struggles to close a $5 million deficit in its current budget, police overtime spending has become a prime target for criticism. Part of the council members’ motivation seems to stem from nine police officers’ refusal to participate as witnesses in last year’s inquiry on overtime spending during the historic summer floods.
Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris has said several times during budget discussions that he would look more favorably on police overtime requests if the officers would participate in the flood inquiry. But the police union has filed a lawsuit to quash the subpoenas that the council issued to the nine officers – two deputy chiefs and the seven cops who collected the largest overtime checks as a result of the flooding – on the grounds that the officers should not have to testify in the flood hearings because of the sensitive nature of their work. A hearing on that litigation is scheduled for March 13.
When Morris on Tuesday mentioned the officers’ refusal to testify, Brown became frustrated. “That’s a PBA issue that’s not a police department issue,’’ the director argued.
Council members told Brown to rein in costs. In the preliminary fiscal plan, the police overtime account had been $1.5 million, but the city council cut $213,000 from that at a departmental budget hearing about two weeks ago.
“We have a salary budget for the police department of $46 million, on top of that, there’s the overtime, at some point we’re going to have to ask more than we have been asking of our uniformed personnel,’’ said Council Finance Chairman Kenneth Morris.
City administration officials have said that overtime became more necessary in the police department in the aftermath of last spring’s layoffs of 125 cops. Moreover, Brown said overtime must be used to investigate homicides, shootings, aggravated assaults and other serious crimes.
Council members have insisted Brown and the administration provide them with advance notice before overtime is incurred.
Under normal circumstances, if the police department were to exceed its overtime budget, money simply would be shifted from another account to cover the shortfall. But Paterson’s current fiscal crisis will make that more difficult.