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.