This morning the City Council revisited a recurring pain point: the Seattle Police Department’s inability to stay within budget on its overtime expenses.
The issues with how the Seattle Police Department manages overtime for its officers go back for years, if not decades, but they came under particular scrutiny starting in October 2014 when then-Chief Kathleen O’Toole requested an audit of the department’s overtime practices. It took the City Auditor 18 months to issue the audit report; in the intervening time the City Budget Office and the City Council became acutely aware of the budget pain inflicted when SPD’s overtime expenses went deep into the red.
After the audit report was released in April 2016 and the Council was briefed, the City Council passed a resolution requesting quarterly reports through the end of 2017 from SPD on its progress in addressing the recommendations from the Auditor to get its overtime practices under control. Those reports showed some progress, but not enough to satisfy the Council that the issues had been resolved, so last fall the Council requested an interdepartmental team be convened to:
- Comprehensively describe SPD’s overtime policies and practices in relation to the findings and recommendations in the 2016 Office of City Auditor report on SPD overtime controls;
- Identify the sources and root causes of the historical gap between SPD budgeted and actual overtime spending (overexpenditure gap) that accounts for factors such as service level needs, staffing levels, population growth, any shifts in systemic practices, and historical events, and that seeks to distinguish between legitimate overtime needs and unnecessary overtime;
- Evaluate best practices in overtime across the country that may inform SPD’s systems; and
- Issue recommendations on (a) the most impactful strategies to reduce the overexpenditure gap and (b) strategic approaches to overtime budgeting and budget requests (supplemental and fall budgets) that will give Council a meaningful opportunity to review and approve or disapprove of anticipated overtime expenditures.
This morning, that workgroup delivered its response to the Council.