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Top earners in Boston police are examined

Superintendent reviews their overtime pay to try to reduce spending

By Maria Cramer
Globe Staff / March 13, 2011

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The Boston Police Department’s second-in-command is scrutinizing the overtime pay of the officers who made the most money in 2010, a review that is causing tension within the rank and file.

Superintendent-in-Chief Daniel Linskey said he is examining the overtime of the top 50 earners in the department and talking to supervisors about the issue because he wants to find any patterns that might help the department curb spending.

Last year, the police department spent $45 million on overtime, an $8.4 million increase over 2009. About half of the spike was due to salary increases negotiated for officers and a legal settlement that forced the city to recalculate overtime payments from 2002 to 2009 and pay about $2.2 million to officers, according to city officials. The rest of the increase appears to be the result of a surge in overtime hours officers logged.

Last month, the police department said it was auditing its units and districts to determine whether rampant abuse of court overtime pay has been occurring, after four officers appeared at a city courthouse although they had not been ordered to be there. A high-ranking law enforcement official has told the Globe that police are investigating whether the officers doctored a notice to appear in court so that their names would be on it and they could collect overtime pay.

In a telephone interview, Linskey declined to say whether he believes any officers have fraudulently tried to collect overtime.

“We have an ongoing investigation, and I think I will wait for the results of that to show up,’’ he said. “My goal is looking at the whole department and the way we spend overtime.’’

Gerry Sanfilippo, president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, said that several detectives in his union have been asked by their supervisors to explain their overtime hours in writing.

“Obviously, they feel they’re being scrutinized without a real plausible reason why,’’ he said.

Sanfilippo sent an e-mail to Commissioner Edward F. Davis on March 1, asking why his members had been asked to file such reports.

“It appears to us that these members are being harassed for doing the work that is required of them,’’ Sanfilippo wrote in the e-mail. “What would your response be if they failed to do their jobs?’’

Sanfilippo said that one of his members was asked to submit his report within 24 hours.

“If these members may be the subject of any disciplinary action as a result of these reports, there must be ample time for the member to write the report as well as have our attorney review the report before submission,’’ Sanfilippo wrote.

The next day, Linskey responded in an e-mail to officers, apologizing to anyone who felt harassed and denied that officers had been required to file reports.

“I have seen the top 50 earners out all hours of the day and night at crime scenes and special events working hard. Their work ethic is not in question. What I need to look at is, are there ways to be more efficient?’’ he wrote. “I do not anticipate members being subject to any discipline.’’

In the interview, Linskey said he was not targeting any particular district, unit, or officer in his review.

“My first step is I’m looking at the top 50 to see if there is any trend and patterns that we can make changes to,’’ he said. “That doesn’t meant I’m not going to look at the next 50 and the next 50.’’

Sanfilippo said many of his members, particularly those who work in demanding units like homicide, sexual assault, and domestic violence, work hundreds of cases a year that require hours of investigative work and time in courtrooms to bring to justice.

“The detectives . . . live, eat, and breathe these cases,’’ he said. “We’re not a company. We don’t make widgets. Tell me what cases you don’t want us to do.’’

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com.