The San Francisco Police Department will shave approximately $1 million a year off officer overtime that has, since 2000, added about $15.8 million annually to the department’s budget.
Officers receive two hours of overtime pay for calling a recorded message from the District Attorney’s Office to find out if they are needed to testify in court if the call is placed during nonworking hours. With San Francisco police officers’ starting salary of about $30 an hour, that’s a minimum pay hike of $90 for a call that takes a few minutes.
Since officers were only given a two-hour window to make the call — between 9 and 11 a.m. daily — the majority of officers were required to do the duty during off-hours, gaining extra dollars and driving up the department’s overtime budget.
However, a new agreement that goes into effect March 1 expands the hours to 4:30 p.m. to 9 a.m. the next day, so officers can call during the workday — even if it’s a midnight-watch shift that begins at 9 p.m. The only officers now receiving OT pay for the call are those officers phoning in on their day off.
Every day, hundreds of the Police Department’s 2,000-plus officers call in for either cases that are due to go to court, or are in line but perhaps on hold for reasons that include lack of courtroom space, according to the Police Department.
“There are cases when people call in two months in a row,” police Chief Heather Fong said. “Every time they call they got two hours overtime, now they will get OT only if they’re off-duty.”
For the last month, the Police Department has been in negotiations for a new contract, called a Memorandum of Understanding, with the San Francisco Police Officers Association, the officers’ union. The 2003-07 MOU is set to expire at the end of June.
The agreement to reduce the amount of court standby pay was negotiated in 2006 as a side note to an amendment to the current MOU, which offers financial incentives to keep veteran San Francisco police officers as well as to recruit experienced officers from other jurisdictions.
Police Officers Association Vice President Kevin Martin said that, to date, there has yet to be negative feedback from officers about the new agreement, adding that the union was interested in helping streamline court overtime costs.
A 2004-05 civil grand jury investigation into some of the SFPD’s overtime practices found several areas where the compensation could be capped in order to save money. For example, police officers are allowed to accrue 480 hours of compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay, which can then be paid out at the end of an officer’s career with the department.
Fong said the negotiations might result in a memorandum of understanding that requires officers to reduce their banked compensatory time.