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September 30, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Watchdog: SPD wasted more than $1M in excessive overtime

Seattle police wasted more than $1 million in overtime last year because of lax management controls relating to training, the department’s internal watchdog reported Tuesday.

A significant portion of the overtime was linked to compliance with a 2012 federal consent decree to curb excessive force and biased policing, even though no training plan related to the agreement had been submitted to a federal monitor tracking the reforms, Pierce Murphy, director of the department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) wrote in scathing six-page report posted on the OPA’s website.

The special report found that, in a mismanaged rush to get out from under the consent decree as soon as possible, training officers in some cases earned overtime on the same day that leave was taken; on days off and for more hours than possible in a 24-hour period.

Murphy blamed the failures on management actions in declining to sustain misconduct findings against any individual officers.

Instead, the department as an organization should “be held accountable for this failure to control overtime spending,” Murphy wrote.

Except for basic and speciality training, the money spent produced “little of value” in regard to the effectiveness of the department or move it closer to compliance with the consent decree, the report said.

The report stemmed from an anonymous complaint to the OPA in January.

“Today’s special report from the Office of Professional Accountability is another example of the gross mismanagement of the Police Department we saw during the McGinn administration,” Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess said in a statement Tuesday that referred to former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “This one cost the taxpayers of Seattle more than a million dollars.”

McGinn lost a re-election bid last year to Ed Murray, who became mayor in January.

Throughout 2013, the Police Department was headed by former Chief John Diaz and former Interim Chief Jim Pugel, who now is the No. 2 ranking deputy in the King County Sheriff’s Office. Former Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole was sworn in as chief in June.

“It was clear to the Council last year that there was little internal management of the Police Department designed to increase policing effectiveness or to use resources in the most efficient way possible,” Burgess said in statement. “That’s why we set aside $500,000 for the new Chief of Police to conduct an independent management review and resource deployment assessment of the entire Department. We eagerly await her findings. As I’ve said before, I cannot support large increases to the Police Department’s budget until it proves it can manage its current resources and personnel effectively.

“I applaud the internal whistleblower who stepped forward and reported the pattern of overtime abuse and mismanagement that has now been documented,” Burgess wrote. “He or she deserves our gratitude.”

In his report, Murphy recommended to O’Toole that she take immediate steps to ensure adequate oversight of budget compliance and overtime controls.

O’Toole also should ask the City Auditor to conduct an audit of the training unit and provide recommendations for improvements, Murphy wrote.

Without delay, Murphy wrote, O’Toole should implement any recommendations from the auditor that would likely improve accountability.

O’Toole said Tuesday that she was drafting a request to the auditor.

Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter | Topics: Office of Professional Accountability, Overtime pay, Seattle Police Department

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