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Police Overtime 'Through the Roof'

Township grapples with hundreds of thousands of dollars in police overtime costs, defends layoffs

Police overtime is expected to break the million dollar mark in West Orange this year.

But while some officers peg the figure to , township administrators contend there's no direct correlation between overtime and the number of employed officers.

Mayor Robert Parisi said the extra costs are largely the fault of foul weather, including and the . "Overtime is more a response to serving in a public safety capacity," he told Patch. "You can't predict what's going to happen."

As of mid-November, police overtime exceeded $900,000 — a more than $100,000 increase from last year.

West Orange Chief Financial Officer John Gross told Patch police overtime is expected to total between $1,009,918 and $1,102,434 this year. "From my experience … it's not anywhere near out of line," Gross said, referring to the amount of overtime that's accumulated so far.

Michael Cassidy, the township's patrolmen's benevolent association vice president and a police officer, argued that though unplanned emergencies spike overtime costs, the bulk of the bill this year was due to .

In March, the township laid off eight police officers and demoted 16 others to help plug a $3.4 million budget gap. The force now has one chief, one deputy chief, three captains, six lieutenants, 19 sergeants and 66 officers for a total of 96. In 2010, the number of total officers was 110, with two officers on leave. In 2009, the total number was 119.

"The storms were unexpected but when you're down to minimum manpower overall, you have nowhere to pull from," Cassidy said. He said most of the cost is coming from sergeant overtime, adding that the demotions severely reduced supervisory staff. Re-promoting officers would offset spiraling costs.

"If you had to pay overtime, it's a lot cheaper to pay overtime as a patrolman than as a sergeant," Cassidy said.

From 2006 to 2008, overtime costs hovered around $800,000. In 2009, the township topped one million dollars in overtime costs, then dropped to $800,000 in 2010. During those years, the number of officers in West Orange remained above 100.

"I remember a couple summers ago, overtime was $800,000, with 17 more cops than we have now. You have events, you have emergencies, you have catastrophes," Parisi said.

Township officials said filling vacant crossing guard posts is also contributing to overtime. With 47 crossing posts all over the township and only 41 crossing guards, police officers must take over the unmanned posts.

Christopher Jacksic, a West Orange police officer and the township's patrolmen's benevolent association president said vacant crossing posts need officers twice a day Monday through Friday. An officer can't leave the crossing post once he or she is stationed there, often causing delays in response time, he said.

"We're shorthanded," said Jacksic. "There's no end in sight, none, until they bring officers back and re-promote."

Parisi maintained additional manpower would not significantly affect overtime. He said after the October snowstorm, that were manned by officers and firemen around the clock. "If we had any more cops, would that have changed the overtime?" he said.

He contended stacking overtime remains more economical than bringing back laid off officers. Officers in overtime are paid time-and-a-half, with some racking up thousands of dollars every year.

"Employee related costs in the long term far exceed overtime costs," Parisi said. "On average, our health insurance and pension cost the township $45,000 per employee, per year."

Jack Sayers, the township's business administrator, said West Orange saved more than $600,000 this year in salaries and health benefits through lay offs and demotions.

Union representatives though say the savings come at a steep price — rising crime, overtaxed officers and an uptick in overtime. 

"We have crime rate skyrocketing, we have officers still trying to do their jobs, because we're so understaffed at this point, sick time is going to go up because people are not getting time off," said Jacksic. "And when sick time goes up, overtime goes up. It's a vicious cycle."

Statistics for the first three quarters of 2011 show crime is up by 36 percent compared to the same period last year. While the number of rapes and aggravated assaults plunged, motor vehicle thefts and burglaries saw a major increase. According to the uniform crime report, increased by 115 percent and saw a 74 percent spike.

Parisi admitted crime has been on the rise in West Orange but said the spike was indicative of the economy. "The crime you're seeing is the direct result of a bad economy … the crime's up all over." Defending the cutbacks, he said the same number of officers are patrolling the streets.

"We have to react to change," he said. "The world changes and we only have so much money to go around."

amy wall December 02, 2011 at 02:12 PM
I am always looking to find a way to justifiy the outrageous tax money West Orange residents have to pay. If there is any "waste" whatsoever, it needs to be put in check now before everyone jumps ship - causing our home values to plunge even further. West Orange is a good place to live but in my neighborhood, the streets are the last to be plowed after snow storms, we saw the debris from the Halloween storm block our roads and scratch our cars for 4 straight weeks, and we cut the school budgets. If there's waste in the police department, it needs to be fixed!
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 02:52 PM
@ amy wall: I think you can be reaonsably assured that both the Police Department and our municipal government are being well managed and that finding ways to cut costs and increase revenues are the rule of the day. The late October snow storm was an event unparalleled in Township history and we sustained the greatest damage I've seen in the 50 years I've lived here. It took the time it took to effect the clean-up because we do not have excess DPW personnel sitting around waiting for an emergency of such scale to happen. There are only +/- 50 people in the entire department who have regular day-to-day responsibiities (that were put on hold) and only so many hour a day that any human being can work. There are also +/- 130 miles of Township roads, with tens of thousands of trees on them, that needed to be cleared. It was a labor intensive and time consuming process and mismanagement or wast had nothing to do with it.
TF December 02, 2011 at 03:12 PM
"Parisi admitted crime has been on the rise in West Orange but said the spike was indicative of the economy. 'The crime you're seeing is the direct result of a bad economy''"----Thieves are thieves---they are not robbing cars and houses to pay for their families. It's not like you're talking about out of work providers robbing bread from groceries stores so their destitute families can have dinner for a night. We are talking about the hoodrats of the area breaking into cars stealing your GPS, and breaking into houses to steal jewelry and cash. This has NOTHING to do with the bad economy. In fact, unemployment is at its lowest since March of 2009. Even if the overtime was at $4 million and the town was on fire, no way administration is ever going to admit that it's due to the layoffs.
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 03:37 PM
@ TF: Perhaps more specifically, "crimes of opportunity" (vehicle break-ins, burglaries, petty thefts) have increased. Have violent crimes? No. Mayor Parisi's opinion (that the increase is related to the economy) is not unfounded: if the kid who stole your GPS and the change off your console has a job a Mickey D's, he likely wouldn't be breaking into cars. As to police layoffs, please consider this from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Government employment continued to trend down in November, with a decline in the U.S. Postal Service (-5,000). Employment in both state government and local government has been trending down since the second half of 2008." Like it or not, governments (everywhere) are getting smaller and, yes, that includes police and fire department as local communities struggle with budget woes. I'm not anti-cop or firemen (far from it) but, the layoffs were necessary to balance the municipal budget and were a result of the PBA being unwilling to make concessions. Still, the number of policemen assigned to the Patrol Division remains at pre-layoff levels. When and if that number ever decreases, there may then be a valid correlation to any increase in crime that occurs. All that said, there is no crime in the administration (or anyone else) acknowledging that there is a cause and effect to most everything and the truth is not something they are ever likely to keep from the public.
TF December 02, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Mr. Englert, since you are the man with all the answers on behalf of the town, can you explain how the hiring of six new firemen and the promoting of two fits into the budget when the laid off policemen have still not been replaced? and there are rumors of more police layoffs?
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 04:38 PM
@ TF: While I don't have all the answers (and don't speak on behalf of the Township), I am reasonably well informed, have no small amount of common sense and don't see conspiracies, malfeasance or misfeasance at every turn. When I have seen wrongdoing and armed with the requisite proofs, history shows I had no problem doing something about it. I also have enough courage of conviction not to hide behind a screen. That said, my understanding of recent hires and promotions in the WOFD were toward filling vacancies resulting from retirements and maintaining minimum staffing levels. It is also a given the the FMBA made this far easier for all concerned to accomplish by giving concessions that the PBA was unwilling to. It's no more complicated than that.
TF December 02, 2011 at 05:01 PM
So, basically, because they "played ball". The police have vacancies resulting from retirements and have the lowest amount of officers in the department in years. Retirements were also put it in BEFORE the police were laid off in the hopes that they could save each other, to no avail. Makes perfect sense.
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 05:41 PM
TF: Played ball? That's one way of phrasing it; because they cooperated and shared sacrifices across the board...unlike the SOA-PBA...would be another and far more accurate. The notion that "(police) retirements were also put in BEFORE the police were laid off in the hopes that they could save each other" is also a fantasy you need to disabuse yourself of. If you'd like to dispute that, please provide the names of those who were so selfless and charitable. Nobody on the WOPD retired before they already personally planned (and were able) to and surely, as a group, the didn't fall on their sword for the greater good. They most certainly could have but, they didn't. It's sad that cops were laid off but, it's also something the PBA must take some responsibility for making the choices they did. As has often been said, "You go to war with the army yoou have and not with the army you'd like." We have what we have because that is what we can afford.
TF December 02, 2011 at 07:00 PM
I appreciate your perfect grammar and exceptional writing skills. A+ Although I know for a fact that you are incorrect in your assumption that my "notion" is a fantasy, I will not accept your challenge in naming names because those good men have nothing to do with my initial inquiry. Perhaps I should attend a town council meeting to inquire exactly how much money we the taxpayers have saved when you compare: -the salaries and benefits of the five laid off police officer positions; -the overtime of sergeants vs. either the overtime of patrol or the regular pay of patrol; -the cost of sending the six new firemen to the academy; -the cost associated with these six firemen being paid a salary plus their benefits; and -the cost differential with the fire promotions. I'm honestly just curious. If we are not paying for one, we are paying for the other so where are we saving?
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 08:02 PM
@ TF: Somehow I doubt that you will ever attend a Council Meeting and make any inquiry, as that would require you to publicly identify yourself and that's something a coward is unlikely to do. You can't provide names of police officers who gallantly retired for the sole purpose of saving the jobs of their juniors because no such thing ever happened. Due to minimum staffing requirements (two in, two out rule, etc,) the WOFD was compelled to hire new personnel to fill existing and expected retirements. There is not the luxury of always doing so after the fact as academy class schedules must be taken into account. Again, this was accomplished within the constraints dictated by the municipal budget currently in place. Five police officer remain laid off because there are no financial resources available to re-hire them. Net, WOPD employee costs have been reduced (and remain within the current budget), even with the unusual over-time paid so far this year. With annual over-time expenses averaging $800,000 to $900,000 for the last few years, the Business Administrator estimates this year's number will come in at $1,100,000: a $200,000 to $300,000 increase over that norm. Further, as indicated, benefit expenses alone (for the five laid off officers) would equal $225,000. Factor in their salaries (+/- $50,000 a year for junior officers?) and we've still reduced department personnel costs by $500,00 a year; substantially more when the saving of demotions are included.
TF December 02, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.
KN December 02, 2011 at 08:53 PM
@Gary: It's amazing how a civilian like yourself knows all about the hiring expenses, salaries, benefit costs, promotions, demotions, retirements, lay-offs, shift schedules, side-jobs, overtime, crime statistics and union negotiations in the WOPD. It's almost like you work there and have that information at your finger tips.
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 09:20 PM
@ TF: I've identified you for what you are; deal with it. @ KN: None of this is rocket science. The article says what it says and most of the math I presented can be extrapolated as a result. To fill in any blanks, the Township budget (including salaries, etc.) is also readily available to the public on its website. Finally, I worked for government as a manager and senior executive for ten years (5 of those with the Township) and pretty much know how things work as a result. I also keep up on local affairs and remain involved as a volunteer, both to the Township and school system.
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 09:39 PM
@ TF: I've identified you for what you are; deal with it. @ KN: None of this is rocket science. The article says what it says and most of the math I presented can be extrapolated as a result. Anything else needed to filll in the blanks can be obtained from the municipal budget which is publicly available on-line. Further, I worked as a manager and senior executive in government for ten years (5 with the Township and 5 with the state) and pretty much know how things function as a result. I also stay up on current local affairs and remain a volunteer for both the Township and Board of Ed.
amy wall December 02, 2011 at 10:02 PM
I may not be active in town politics but I have lived all over the tri state area, paid much less property tax and received far better services than West Orange offers. I can only go by what I witness as a resident. It's not the worst but I think the town can do better. And I'm NOT talking about the Halloween storm or Irene. I understand they were unprecedented events.
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 10:14 PM
@ amy wall (below): Where you've lived might well result in comparing apples and oranges and absent your detailing you concerns about which services you think are deficient, or specific areas in which you think economies can be achieved, there's not much that can be said. Personal observations are, at best, subjective, and the conclusions reached only as valid as the individual's expertise in the matter at hand. For example: A non-pilot is hardly qualified to opine how well an in-flight emergency was handled.
amy wall December 02, 2011 at 11:00 PM
Not all of us work for the government nor have any intention of working for the government. The majority of us mere residents are tax payers that support town services - therefore I am able to offer only subjectivity. I did mention the services I'm not happy with. I have watched cars sliding down the roads in my neighborhood over the past 6 winters. Plows don't show up until mid-morning. This is true even when we've had plenty of warning. I'm not talking about snow emergencies - I'm just talking about winter. I have had to stay home from work because I don't want to slide down the hill to route 10 (which has happened). I am also not thrilled with the garbage removal service. They might pick up the trash but they throw the can wherever they feel like it and I've seen them drop garbage in the road because they are careless. I'm not a complainer. I don't call the town with every gripe. I lived with no power in a freezing cold house for several days because I understood the last storm was unusual and resources were limited. Sometime you have to make the best of it. But I think any town would admit they can do better. On a positive note: there are wonderful things about West Orange too...I have endless amounts of praise for the autism services provided by the district at the preschool level. I'll live with stinky trash in my road and an unscheduled vacation day off work if children are getting the services they need - but should I have to?
wohopeful December 02, 2011 at 11:05 PM
These overtime costs going through the roof and costing the hard working honest taxpayers of West Orange are a direct result of the incompetence of the puppet Mayor Parisi and his inept administration who pushed hard for these layoffs with no forethought of what it would ultimately cost the taxpayers. Now they try to be cavalier with their response and blame it all on the economy which we know is absolutely not the case. The puppet Mayor Parisi made sure he secured pay increases and pension padding for his frienmds and gave no regard to what it would cost the good residents of WO in public safety and money which is a struggle for many in our community. Shame on puppet Mayor Parisi\!
Ken December 02, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Just out of curiousity, whose puppet is he, exactly?
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 11:32 PM
@ amy wall (3 posts below): I am not suggesting that everyone needs or wants to work for government, only that (having done so) I have a better understanding of the manpower and logistics involved to accomplish the tasks that government fulfills for the common good. Our refuse is collected by a private company that is awarded the contract through the competitive bidding process. It is administered by the Health Department and if you've experienced less than adequate service there is no reason to suffer in silence. Call the Health Department at 325-4120 and lodge your complaint. They will have the contractor's route supervisor address the issue.
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 11:45 PM
@ amy wall: As to snow removal, generally speaking, the Township historically performs it in a manner that is the envy of surrounding communities; the vast majority of it being handled in-house by DPW personnel. During a typical snow event, trucks are dispatched at a time in line with the weather predicted, the snowfall accumulation predicted and, of course, when the event actually starts. As I indicated elsewhere, there are +/- 130 miles of Township roads that will need to be salted and plowed. That equates to 260 driving miles as each street will require at least two passes (left and right side); even more depending upon the volume of the particular snowfall. The trucks used are purpose built, heavy-duty dump trucks with both plows and salt spreaders attached. There are a dozen or so in the fleet, with likely ten available (the rest down for maintenance) during a typical storm. Moving at 10 MPH, it will take one truck a minimum of 2.6 hours to cover its assigned area with two passes on each street. Additional time must be factored for return trips to the yard for salt refills and fueling, as both are expended quickly. In each assigned area, there are priority streets (the steepest inclines, schools, fire stations, etc.) that are done first. Somebody will always be first and someone will alway be last. If you have or had specific issues concerning your street, you should call the DPW at 325-4067 and they will be addressed.
Gary Englert December 02, 2011 at 11:56 PM
@ wohopeful: Your post is just another example of the lunatic ravings of a cowardly, anonymous, Internet nitwit.
Gary Englert December 03, 2011 at 07:17 AM
Just so nobody feels that West Orange is unique when it comes to budget woes and reductions in staff, the following article is enlightening: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/nj_towns_are_cutting_staff_to.html
wohopeful December 03, 2011 at 12:15 PM
Great Idea Mr. Englert. Perhaps you can explain why our puppet Mayor Parisi chose to attack the Police rather than cutting his own administration. It certainly does not set a good example for the PBA negotiators when our puppet Mayor Parisi hands out raises and protects the double dipping pension padding of his friends and then turns around and tries to shake down the Police Union only to result in exta cost to the taxpayers and jeopardizing public safety.
woconcernsme@gmail.com December 03, 2011 at 02:02 PM
@ gary What exactly is your problem with Karen now? We all know that you are smart and can write well, but really your hatred toward this fine young woman is unwarranted. Also, please leave your personal agenda against the police dept out of this. We all know that you have hatred toward them because they won't partake in your memorial day calamity.
Gary Englert December 03, 2011 at 04:27 PM
@ wohopeful: Start with a faulty premise and you're bound to reach a faulty conclusion. Personnel actions instituted and/or sanctioned by the Parisi Administration were done in accordance with applicable law and resulted in a net savings to the taxpayers. The SOA-PBA and non-uniformed employees unions were asked to consider shared sacrifice, across the board, in order to prevent the layoffs/demotions of any of their members and they refused. Alternatively, the FMBA agreed to the proposed concessions and positions in the fire department were saved. It's no more complicated than that.
Gary Englert December 04, 2011 at 07:00 PM
@ woconcernsme@gmail.com (i post below): I have no "problem" with Karen Yi but, my constructive criticism is cetrtainly valid: the headline is not supported by the content of the article that follows. I have no "agenda against the police dept" as many of its officer are long-time friends who have my personal respect and admiration for their professionalism and the job they do. I do have an issue with the current leadership of the SOA & PBA who made a unilateral decision (not supported by many of its membership) to use participation in the annual Memorial Day ceremony as a bargaining chip in whatever their cause du juor might be. For you to characterize that ceremony as a "calamity" is to fail to acknowledge that it has honored not only the 156 Township men killed in action but, 330 of our veterans who served in combat and remains the most media covered event in West Orange history. It also paints you as a what you've long been known to be; a cowardly, anonymous Internet nitwit.
Adam Kraemer December 04, 2011 at 10:40 PM
We pay taxes to the State of NJ which has State Police and taxes to the county of Essex for Sheriffs. I did not notice great back up for the West Orange Police during the storms. Part of the issue as to why we pay over time is poorly coordinated multiple layers of law enforcement that does not make us safer but does cost the taxpayers.
Gary Englert December 05, 2011 at 01:24 AM
@ Adam Kraemer: Your failure to understand that the weather event was state-wide and taxed all government resources, or that the law enforcement agencies mentioned have widely different areas of responsibility, underscores only your ignorance. Except in extraordinary situations (SWAT, hostage, dog teams,bomb scares, etc.) do the Sheriff's Department or State Police provide "backup" to local municipalities. There are, however, rural areas of New Jersey that have not established local police departments and where the State Police provide primary law enforcement services.
MP December 05, 2011 at 04:13 AM
Police in NJ are vastly overpaid ($100k plus). Add in over-time at 1-1/2 to 2 times the regular pay - the tax payers are robbed.

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