10/23/2019Overtime Reform For Texas City Following Red Light Camera Windfall
Denton, Texas city audit calls for reform after 40 percent of police overtime requests were improperly approved.
Police in Denton, Texas, personally profited from the use of red light cameras while the program was operational. An audit of the police department's use of overtime prepared for the city council on Tuesday found that, overall, officers added a collective $1.7 million to their take home pay with 30,000 overtime hours worked across all duty areas. City officials agreed to implement reforms after city auditor Umesh Dalal revealed that only 40 percent of the overtime requests were "appropriately approved."
"Supervisory approval is one of the most critical overtime controls as it helps ensure that overtime pay requested is actually worked by the employee," Dalal wrote. "Allowing the police administrative supervisor to approve overtime overrides this control as the police administrative supervisor typically does not have direct knowledge of the hours an employee worked. In this way, an employee may be able to be paid for overtime that was not actually worked."
The report notes that officers at the rank of assistant chief and above were able to self-approve their own overtime requests. Last year, the city claimed an "accounting error" mistakenly showed assistant police chief Scott Fletcher taking full advantage of the rules by pocketing $122,839 in overtime from the red light camera "traffic safety fund" between 2014 and 2016. In response to the Denton Record Chronicle's investigation, officials produced a new spreadsheet showing assistant chief Fletcher only added $37,883 to his takehome pay from his work with Redflex Traffic Systems, the Australian photo ticketing vendor. Sergeant Daryn Briggs and Lieutenant David Hildebrand personally took $5350 and $18,899 from the photo ticketing program, under the revised figures.
Denton's red light cameras were removed after the state ban on red light cameras took effect in July. While the program did not demonstrate clear benefits to the use of automated ticketing machines, Denton conducted an experiment with lengthening yellow times that produced a far greater reduction in red light violations than the photo ticketing program ever achieved.
About one out of five overtime hours goes to traffic police for issuing tickets, including federally funded STEP grants. These bonuses are added on top of a startomg salary of $61,810. After fifteen years of service, base pay rises to $86,524. Benefits include three weeks of vacation, free health care and the use of a take-home squad car.
"Best practices suggest that higher overtime hours may negatively affect police officers' health and hamper on duty performance," Dalal wrote. "Setting a maximum not only decreases the risk of waste and abuse, but also facilitates productivity in this way."
The city agreed to no longer award overtime pay to the chief of police, assistant chiefs or deputy chiefs.
A copy of the audit is available in a 400k PDF file at the source link below.