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Norwalk police OT high, but in line with neighboring departments

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said sometimes it is cheaper to pay police overtime than to add officers, but there is a tipping point.
Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said sometimes it is cheaper to pay police overtime than to add officers, but there is a tipping point.

 

NORWALK, Conn. – Police overtime pay in Norwalk in 2012 landed more than 100 officers on the city’s list of employees who made $100,000 or more, according to city documents.

The issue of police overtime has been a point of interest for several NancyOnNorwalk readers over the past year, and it has become a hotter topic as the city election draws near. The Norwalk police union has not signed a labor agreement, and whoever wins the mayor’s race Nov. 5 will have an impact on negotiations going forward. Recently, the union endorsed former 17-year Chief Harry Rilling, the Democratic challenger, in his bid to unseat four-term Republican incumbent Richard Moccia. In the past, the union had endorsed Moccia.

In Norwalk, according to city figures, there were about 106 police officers making at least $100,000, the majority under $150,000. Five made between $175,000 and $191,000, 47 made between $120,000 and $165,000, and 54 made $100,000 to $119,000. The totals include all overtime. There are currently 175 officers in the department from chief down to patrol.

The Stamford Police Department has just over 275 officers. In Stamford, according to a story in the Stamford Advocate, 134 officers made more than $100,000, including one who pulled in $277,567, according to a February article in the Stamford Advocate. Nine lieutenants averaged $168,000, eight captains averaged $152,000. There were 44 sergeants averaging $136,000. None of these figures include extra duty pay, such as “dirt jobs,” but city-related extra duty OT is included.

In Stamford, there also are 155 firefighters making more than $100,000. In Norwalk, the number is about 80.

According to a current Connecticut Magazine story, Stamford’s crime rate is lower than Norwalk’s, with Stamford reporting 1,849.6 crimes per 100,000 people, and Norwalk reporting 2,272.1. Stamford’s rate was the best among the top eight cities, while Norwalk was third, behind Danbury’s 2,117.6.

In Darien, according to darientownnews.com, 21 of the town’s top 25 salaries go to police officers, including one at $178,633 and one at $161,950. Four others are at $150,000 or above. The rest make between $123,000 and $144,000. According to the town’s website, Darien employed 34 sworn officers from the chief down. Figures include the same things as the Norwalk figures. Darien’s crime rate is 493.5.

NancyOnNorwalk reached out to Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik, Director of Finance Thomas Hamilton, Moccia and Rilling for input, including statistical information. Only Kulhawik and Rilling responded.

“Our current authorized staffing level is 181. We are funded for 178 and

According to Kulhawik, the department’s authorized staffing level is 181, but only 178 positions are funded in the current budget. “We currently have 175 on the roster as we had a recent retirement, etc.,” he said. “We will be filling those vacancies off our new list and test, which is in progress now.”

We asked for the total salary figure, including everything, paid to the police in 2012, and how much of that was overtime, a question the chief said Hamilton could better answer as he would have the figures. Hamilton has not responded.

So is there a tipping point when it becomes more cost-effective to hire more officers than to pay overtime?

“The OT question is a complicated one,” Kulhawik said. “There is a breaking point as well as other factors which play into this, but, generally speaking, it is sometimes cheaper to pay OT than to hire additional officers. However, with that said, as I noted, there is a balance that must be managed.”

It is not just a dollars-and-cents issue, he explained.

“It also depends on what you expect of the officers. As you add additional duties and assignments such as SRO’s (school resources officers), you need additional bodies to do it,” he said. “For patrol staffing, it is an easier answer, and in those cases the OT can be cheaper as you don’t have the benefits and training and equipment costs. We use this balance in determining the budget and look at both salary figures and overtime when determining how to properly fund at the least expense.”

Rilling has said that he tried to increase the size of the staff while he was chief, but his efforts met with resistance.

“Every year in my initial submission in the budget process we would look for a few more officers to bring us up to full staff,” he said.” By the time the budget got back, the finance director’s recommendations were usually those officers were taken out or not funded or whatever. We had an authorized strength of 182 officers but they would only fund us to 176. Right now, I believe with an authorized strength of 181, because we gave a position back when they hired an IT person that worked predominately with the police department.”

Kulhawik said he did not know whether additional officers will be added.

“Obviously, economics plays a factor and we will look at that when we put the budget request together and after discussing with the mayor and (police) commission as well as the Finance Department and the overall city budget numbers.”

A press release from the Rilling campaign last week said Rilling would “do everything possible to fully staff our city’s police department. He will work to ensure they receive the training, the tools, and the skills necessary to provide for the public’s safety.” The release said he would “aggressively pursue state and federal grants as well as support from private foundations to help fund” the additions.

Comments

31 responses to “Norwalk police OT high, but in line with neighboring departments”

  1. Piberman

    Mr Chapman reports Stamford has about 50 % more officers than Norwalk but about 20% less crime. But Stamford is a major commercial center with a huge influx of out of town workers. So policing demands are more robust for Stamford. Rather than give crimes per 100,000 comparisons it’s more insightful to compare major crimes against persons when making comparisons between cities. Finally, Norwalk’s mayor doesn’t make police department staffing decisions. That’s the role of our a Common Council under our Charter. After 17 years as Chief with our current Chief as protege one would think the one issue that doesn’t merit substantial discussion in this campaign is policing and crime. It’s hard to imagine policing matters would be any different with Chief Rilling as mayor than as when Police Chief. Save higher salaries in the next contract than offered by the current administration.

  2. Tim T

    A few points.. The crime figures are only what the department reports and to what category . They are NOT audited by the FBI. In other words the numbers are useless if the PD does not report them honestly and or correctly.

    The bulk of the overtime issue is certainly not due to 181 vs 178 staffing in doubling and in some cases tripling an officers salary. This clearly points to what I have been saying all along as to waste at construction sites. One other point… If other towns and cities are more or less wasteful than us it is of no importance, as this is about Norwalk. The old saying 2 wrongs don’t make a right applies here. Just think if we didn’t waste millions paying cops to stare at a hole in the ground all the extra cops we could hire. These cops could actually “attempt” to fight crime in Norwalk. Also before someone who is or has profited from this cash cows states the false information that this is being paid by other than the city. We have been down that road before in how the cost is figured into constructions contracts, which the city pays, with the tax dollars the taxpayer pays.

  3. Tim T

    Should have been 175 not 178

  4. M Allen

    Tim – If those cops weren’t staring at holes, what exactly would they be doing in the Tim T Police Department? How exactly would they be fighting crime? These are not they duty jobs. Are you saying you would have the work more duty shifts? Or would they somehow be fighting crime during their off time?

  5. Oldtimer

    Overtime is frequently considered a waste of City resources when a good deal of it is to fill empty slots and is cheaper than hiring new officers. Some overtime is an unavoidable part of the nature of police work. Some events require more officers than are scheduled so extra are called in and paid overtime. A lot is construction jobs and the city makes a profit on them. A careful analysis of all the overtime could probably find some small savings, but not much.
    Tim T argues against police officers doing traffic at construction sites and believes the same job could be done as well for a lot less money by others. If that were true, Tim, or some other smart businessman, would be supplying people for hire instead of police officers, and making money.

  6. TLawton

    Is there an ordinance or law that states construction zones must have a police officer directing traffic? As opposed to a certified person, which you often see after storms – during clean ups – and for out of state crews.

  7. Farhan Memon

    I thought that overtime at construction jobs is paid for by the contractor. Is that not the case? Also it would be good to know what proportion of overtime per officer is duty time vs construction monitoring. Seeing the figures officer by officer would also be helpful. Finally if an officer is making $191,000/year how many hours does that translate into? Are officers who work 80 hour weeks effective in their duty jobs?

  8. Break the Unions

    Old Timer a retired police captain and MAllen the son of a retired police officer. Seems to me that they have a bit of a bias view on the matter.

  9. Ttttimmeeeeh!

    I agree with very little of what Tim T usually brings here, but he is spot on about citizens picking up inflated construction costs.
    .
    If you think NU/Yankee Gas/CL&P eats the cost of this you are crazy. You are paying for it in your gas and electric bills.
    .
    Then what about when the city pays to have paving done? Do you think the contractor eats that cost? Do you still maintain the city profits off of the cost? How exactly since the city is the one paying?
    .
    Enough already. Our fine police force does a great job but shouldn’t be in this line of work if they are expecting a continuous gravy train. Those days are OVER! If you don’t like it, go into some other field that pays more. No one is forcing you to stay in what you believe is a low paying job.

  10. Don’t Panic

    But the Mayor does influence police policy setting. He is part of the three person Police Commission and appoints the other two members.
    .
    Mr. Rilling will surely bring a new perspective to this commiss having served as both beat cop and captain of the force.

  11. Marge Innoverra

    More crime is committed against young people than against people of “working age”. You can read the statistics on http://www.bjs.gov . So having a large working population in a city doesn’t mean that the city has greater police needs.
    PIBerman may have made an incorrect assumption and jumped to an erroneous conclusion.

  12. M Allen

    yes, i have bias in asking what police officers working overtime would be doing if they weren’t working overtime. Tim made the suggestion there were better things they could be doing if they weren’t staring into holes and being paid by a contractor to do it. It’s not the city paying them to stare into holes rather than be out investigating crimes or patrolling neighborhoods. If they were doing that, it would be on-duty OT. Staring at holes is different. And for the record, I think some officers do way too much of it and I have always been concerned that too many hours working side jobs degrades their ability to function properly when on duty. So I’m not sure what bias you think may exist. But its not here.

  13. Sjur

    The issue has come to a tipping point because the citizens of Norwalk are being taxed out of town. How many of the 175 NPD actually live in Norwalk?

  14. M Allen

    Is police OT at job sites, which is paid for by the construction companies, really the tipping point that is causing citizens to be taxes out of town? Feel free to disagree with the city law here and in many other cities and towns in CT that requires these jobsites to hire police officers all you like. But quit acting like it is city tax dollars being paid to the officers. Mixing the issues is wrong. It’s not city tax dollars being paid for these jobs.

  15. Ttttimmeeeeh!

    One more time for those who can’t follow.
    .
    The contractors pay the costs, then pass that cost onto customers plus a markup. The customers like CL&P pass that cost onto their customers plus a markup. The city of Norwalk happens to be one of CL&Ps largest customers in the state, not to mention the taxpayers who also buy electricity from CL&P.
    .
    Bottom line is society in general would be better off having qualified flagmen at job sites instead of tired cops burning gas and wearing out A/C compressors.

  16. Oldtimer

    The contractor pays the city, the city takes a markup, or fee, and pays the officer the rest. I don’t have exact figures, and I suspect they would be hard to get, but the city collects a percentage over what the officer gets. When that fee was initiated, after years with no fee, the story was it was to pay for the clerical expenses. How close it really matches the clerical expenses would be a good question to ask. I suspect it far exceeds the expenses and has for many years. That difference is a profit for the City.
    There is no law requiring officers doing traffic at construction sites and a lot of small jobs are done with nobody doing traffic, but barricades and signs protecting the site. Others use laborers as flagmen. I believe on bigger jobs the contractor’s insurance company prefers police officers and that preference is reflected in their premiums.

  17. M Allen

    You know what would have been nice, just to avoid the kind of half-truth back and forth that goes on, is if the story had not been published without a full set of information.
    .
    1. Total base salaries
    2. Total city-funded overtime
    3. OT related to roadway construction sites
    4. OT related to non-mandated sites
    .
    This argument about overtime happens every couple of months and the discussion about police security at construction sites, where required, happens all the time. Well, Tim T raises it all the time. It is an argument that has been going on for decades. It would be so nice if we just got the real numbers. Or that the story wasn’t written until those were available. Because a bunch of partial data isn’t the best source for a story.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @M. Allen

      The story was intended to put Norwalk’s police OT into perspective by comparing with a couple of neighboring towns, and to get some comments about the staffing vs. OT question. It was not an intent to drill down into the police budget to analyze the use of the OT. Also, if we waited for city response to every inquiry (we did ask for more specific financial information) before we did every story, we would have a lot of blank screens. The “we’re only giving public information to media that are ‘friendly’ to us” attitude is a disservice to everyone who comes to this site — and that number is growing on a weekly basis, with thousands of daily page views by more than 1,000 visitors, according to our analytics program.

  18. Oldtimer

    Back when police officers were required to live in town and carry weapons all the time, there were numerous cases where off-duty officers got involved in stopping, preventing, and solving crimes. This was an additional burden on the wives of officers (all officers then were male) and they were most likely the ones who pressured their husbands to get the residency rule changed.

  19. M Allen

    Thanks Mark. The problem is comparing OT just isn’t possible without the breakdown. At least for the police. the FD OT is (I think) standard OT for covering shifts of guys on vaca, out sick, etc. But for the police, you have standard OT, roadway job sites and then other security-related OT (banks, stores, etc.)
    .
    I thought there was still a rule in certain cities, Norwalk being one, that police had to be used whenever a road was being opened up or whenever work was being done in a high-traffic area. Maybe that changed and now it isn’t required as long as there is an official, trained flagperson. But I’ve also heard the story that contractors choose to use police because of insurance purposes. So I’m not sure what is required anymore versus what is just choice.

  20. Lifelong Teacher

    I agree with some of the previous posters. If a police officer is working so many overtime hours that their salary is doubled or tripled, that’s a huge problem. How can they be rested or alert enough to do the job we hired them for?

  21. Tim T

    Lifelong Teacher
    “How can they be rested or alert enough to do the job we hired them for?”
    You make a very good point. This may be the reason for the lack of violent crimes being solved by the NPD.

    MAllen
    The answer to your question is petty. If the money was not being paid to the cops for overtime as part of the construction contract. That money could be put into the police budget to hire extra cops.

    Old Timer
    Please…. Are you attempting to say that the 15 percent fee covers the 60 to 86 per hour, gas, an extra fleet of cars for dirt jobs , insurance on those car ,and registration?

    One last point if anyone thinks Rilling will curtail the out of control overtime. I have a bridge for sale…Interested?
    Rilling is part of the Problem

  22. One who knows

    There is no city ordinance in Norwalk requiring a police officer at any construction site. Contractors choose an officer for safety reasons (whether the cop is staring into the hole or not, statistics show drivers slow down more than they do for flagmen), and for lower insurance premiums. The money is paid to the city along with a fee, and the city pays the cop after taking out their fee, taxes, etc. The city makes over 1/2 million per year in collected fees which goes into the general fund. The state and Feds make their cut in the income taxes. Other overtime in the cops annual salary is city funded from filling vacancies and patrols at the beaches, parks, and school functions. When a police car is used at a construction site, it comes from a fleet of spare cars that would have otherwise been taken out of service and handed down to other city agencies. Those other agencies no longer want the old police cars, so the PD hangs on to them. The city is self insured, so there is no insurance costs, only the gas and little maintanence. The benefit is that this has an overall effect on crime by having exta duty police officers throughout the city creating an omnipresence. There are also several documented incidents in which an officer on an extra duty job has made arrests or assisted other officers in emergencies. As a Norwalk resident I don’t feel the cost of a cop on a construction job is trickled down so much to affect my taxes. There are other areas of city waste taking care of that. The benefit of the construction site safety, extra police presence, and income from fees outweighs the cost to us the taxpayers.

  23. Break the Unions

    One who knows
    Please provide a source and a link to back up your statement. Without a source it’s union propaganda.

  24. Tim T

    Break the Unions
    I would not hold my breath waiting for a source as I am all but sure it does not exist. With that said if “One who knows” was accurate this would be the break down of the math. He stated the city makes half a million on the 15 percent administration fee. If that were correct the city is paying out 7.5 Million to make half a million.. MUST BE NEW MATH

  25. M Allen

    Paying it our of what Tim? The money they took in from the contractor? It’s not taxpayer dollars.
    .
    What exactly are you disputing that “One who knows” stated? That there isn’t a law requiring the use of police officers yet contractors hire them anyway because they choose to?
    .
    Again, this is a simple thing to find out if anyone can ask the current or former Chief. How does this work?

  26. Break the Unions

    M Allen
    Just who do you think pays the contactors??????
    The taxpayers?????
    Why are you attempting to spin the facts???
    Its a very simple concept.. The reason contractors are forced to figure the cost of ot for the police in the contract is simple… Its called the union.

  27. M Allen

    Break, I’m not attempting to spin any facts. To be honest, there aren’t a lot of facts in any of this. More a bunch of assertions. If there is no law requiring contractors to use off-duty police officers, then why are the contractors using off-duty police officers if it doesn’t make economic sense for them?
    .
    The union doesn’t force them. If you can provide some factual evidence, I would be more than happy to cede the issue. Why do contractors use off-duty officers if they are more expensive? And please, don’t say the roadwork or treework contract mandates it unless someone can produce a contract. Otherwise its not a fact.
    .
    Why is it so hard to get a specific answer on this and put this issue to bed? I’m not asking you, just asking in general. Because it seems more difficult than it has to be.

  28. Tim T

    M Allen
    Before a contractors puts in a bid for a job they get a spec sheet. On that spec sheet it includes police officers for traffic control. Years back before the police union started demanding all the traffic control overtime, many of the spec sheets allowed for flagmen. You are correct its not a law. It’s just the old boys club taking care of the old boys club on the backs of the taxpayer. Why is it you cannot seem to understand that the taxpayer ultimately pays for each and every cent of the police overtime. Its a very simple concept as last I checked money doesn’t grow on trees.

  29. Tim T

    One last point. the 15 percent fee that everyone is talking about is not profit as it goes towards the employer portion of FICA tax and the little that is left is spent on administration of the cash cow..

  30. Don’t Panic

    @Tim,
    I would be very interested to be pointed to the documents showing that the City is paying their portion of the FICA with money from the contractors. Is that in the published BET budget, or council approved documents?
    .
    Can someone just pull three bids that “require” police OT? I have been reading Tim T’s comments about this issue for years and would love to understand the City’s side of the arrangement now that NON has covered the recipient side (police OT article).

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