Portland police overtime up 200% in June as staffing slumps
Portland Police Bureau overtime jumped nearly 200% in the month of June as nightly protests against police brutality reached a fever pitch, according to an analysis of official data.
All told, police staff worked 85,222 hours of overtime in June — an average of 2,840.7 hours per night. That's a 198% increase from the May total of 28,518 total hours of overtime, or 919.9 hours per day.
The nightly demonstrations began in earnest on May 29, when a crowd stormed the records-keeping office on the ground floor of the Multnomah County Justice Center and briefly set the area alight.
"Overtime expenditures will never be obsolete, as the nature of the work requires our members to work their shift and attend court on a day off, or stay late on a critical incident, or attend training," Police Chief Chuck Lovell said. "We do have an obligation to be diligent with how we plan and manage the overtime and eliminate inefficiencies."
Officers earn time-and-a-half, or 1.5 times above their established pay rate, for each hour worked after the first 40, according to the city's labor agreement with the Portland Police Association.
In a news release, PPB also highlighted the retirement of 51 sworn officers and one resignation so far in August, as well as the 84 positions eliminated when City Hall slashed the bureau's budget for fiscal year 2021. The bureau pared back its proposed budget by $12 million due to pandemic-related revenue shortfalls, and city councilors cut another $15 million.
Police say about 100 officers have not been fully trained and therefore cannot respond to 9-1-1 calls without a partner. It previously took around 18 months to fully train one officer, but in-person training has been suspended due to COVID-19, extending training cycles.
Authorities say the largest driver of overtime is "backfill," when not enough officers show up for each patrol shift and other officers are called in to keep staffing levels at the minimum required.
Overtime has since returned to normative levels, with 25,817 overtime hours reported in July, or about 832 hours per day. The average number of overtime hour from May 2017 to present is 679 hours per day.
In October of last year, the city's elected auditor dinged the police bureau, highlighting in a 19-page report that said police had worked a quarter-million overtime hours at a cost of $15 million in fiscal year 2018. One officer worked 97 hours in one week, the audit said, and there is no cap on overtime.
In response, Chief Lovell says the bureau has created a new approval model for overtime requests and created a public-facing data dashboard.
"We continue to work on the Auditor's recommendations to improve our practices and processes and I am pleased with our progress," he said.
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