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Police Overtime And Side Jobs

Norwalk residents expresses his opinion on police overtime and side jobs.

There have been several letters in local publications recently about the use of police overtime for construction projects in Norwalk, mostly negative.  This has become  a very tough but important  issue in this economy, when so many folks are out of work or underemployed, and can barely afford to pay for food, or their property tax.

I hope the police union and officials  are sensitive to this issue, and understand how frustrating it is for city residents to see city budgets slashed on essential services, road paving, and education, while many of their colleagues are making up to $200k a year based on the overtime of $40-80 an hour standing in the street on jobsites.  This is not pleasant work by any means, but it is still nice work if you can get it. Of course, the safety factor is important, which is why they are there in the first place, and I am always glad to see a police officer near the workers and equipment on a dig in the middle of the road, especially with the way people drive in Norwalk.

No doubt, lives have been saved and injuries prevented, with incalcuIable benefit to families and society. Also, I am sure there is a crime deterrence effect , since we no longer have beat cops in our city, and this is the only time a police presence is visible in many of our neighborhoods. However, the current system, established when public money flowed more freely,  costs Norwalk taxpayers millions every year, and is clearly unsustainable.

It is also a hot topic in City Hall, because not only do outside contractors have to pay these costs, but also other city departments,  which come out of their already strained budgets, and which has a direct negative impact on urgent capital projects that the city needs to maintain its infrastructure. So I think we are often misled when we are told this overtime doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything, because it is paid for by both city departments and outside contractors, who naturally pass the overtime costs directly onto taxpayers  based on what they charge the city for their work.    

The other big cost factor is the fuel use, and severe wear and tear on the engines that are left idling for hours. I wonder how these costs (which must add up to hundreds of thousands a year based on the total number of jobsites) are handled, and who they are charged to.  Any mechanic will tell you long idling will wear out oil pumps, A/C compressors, catalytic convertors, and engine blocks faster than anything else, since engines run inefficiently while idling, especially with A/C on. 

I know the emergency lights need to run also, but I wonder if can they run on battery power for some length of time, especially since police vehicles have extra battery capacity.  Are there any idling guidelines issued by the NPD to reduce fuel use, and engine wear? I have never seen a cruiser on a jobsite with its engine turned off. There is also the environmental cost of all that extra air pollution caused by the idling, which may be hard to quantify in terms of cost, but is still a real issue when anti-idling campaigns are going on in cities around the country to cut pollution and save resources.  

I do a lot of driving in other towns besides Norwalk, and many of them do not have police cruisers stationed at construction sites, even in neighboring New Canaan which is a much wealthier town. The police officer is dropped off and picked up by a colleague, or he or she drives there in their own car as I have seen. There are no emergency lights, but they wear bright orange vests and folks definitely slow down, especially with the required big orange signs that say SLOW-CONSTRUCTION.   I am sure the costs to taxpayers are much reduced there as a result.   As they say, maybe that’s why they are so wealthy.

I do not disparage any police officer trying to improve worksite safety and also make as much money as they can with overtime, and it is hard work, especially in bad weather.  In their regular line of duty they certainly deserve our full support. However, I hope that police officials and the union can at least begin a discussion on a way to bring these jobsite costs down to a level that reflects our new economic reality.  Taxpayers simply cannot afford to support wasteful practices, and there surely are many ways that the extreme costs in labor and fuel of this overtime practice can be trimmed.

Mike Mushak

 

Davide GioMastrio January 13, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Good evening, I personally think it’s a waste of money to have a police officer on a ‘detail’. And this is coming from a family of police officers. As a taxpayer, I believe that we could boost the economy by having entrepreneurs start a ‘flag-man’ company here in Norwalk and offer their services. It would cost the town ABSOLUTELY NOTHING and save the contractors (tree companies, etc) a ton of money as well. It is a known fact that hiring a ‘flag-man’ is half the price of a detailed police officer. By implementing this, it becomes a win-win for not only the vendor, but the city of Norwalk as well. This is something that Norwalkers must pursue vigorously and don’t stop until they win. What an absolute waste of money that is being spent on details. Police make enough money. Again, pass the law to allow Flag-Man companies to replace detail police officers.
Glen K Dunbar January 13, 2012 at 11:25 PM
I think if a Police person wants to really work OT let them do it. Personally whether it be a Poice person or anyone...I think OT stinks. I HATE OT I only do it if I am forced to and I fuss and fume about it all the way!!! Same thing for side jobs. If a person really has no life and wants to work 2 jobs I say better them than I. Glen
augustus sclafani January 14, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Well I think Mr GioMastrio is a little over the top with his comment, I do feel much safer knowing that there are numerous Police officers on side jobs with Marked units that could break away from their construction jobs and respond to any Major Emergencys Norwalk may have, I feel these extra Police on the road serve as a deterrent to crime, Keep up the good work NPD ....there will allways be Belly-achers out there!
OLDTIMER January 14, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Every year, for some unexplained reason, probably to stir up public opinion as it affects ciy contract negotiations, the City publishes the same list and there are always a few exceptional police officers on it. For a week or so after, all kinds of experts who would never consider or qualify for work as police officers, voice opinions on how terrible it is a cop can earn so much. Nobody ever comes up with a practical solution beyond eliminating time and a half for police overtime. We don't need another law. Flag men, and women, are used on some jobs by some contractors. Nobody, except insurance companies and lawyers, make contractors hire cops at construction jobs. A business supplying flag men for much less than police has never struck anybody as a really good business plan, but there is nothing to prevent anyone from starting such a business. Good luck with it. When will the City start publishing the gross pay, incuding overtime and expense accounts, for other City employees, especially the department heads who live out of town ?
Mike Mushak January 16, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Old Timer, I respect your opinion, but I understand that the police union forces contractors to hire them or they shut the job down. This is what I have heard from city department heads as well, and the strain on their budgets as a result is huge, and cuts into capital expenditures on things like paving that we need desperately. I know of 2 smaller jobs incvolving tree work near Wall Street that have been cancelled because there is no money for the police escort, which effectively doubles the cost of the much needed but small projects. Is this right? I also don't understand why other cities around us do not require police cruuisers on the job. I would love to see a comparison of what our total overtime budget is vs. other cities around us. Just last week, I saw a utility truck in the middle of the nearly empty Mathews park, with a police cruiser and officer. What traffic were they directing, squirrels?

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