The protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death have pushed police reform to the forefront in Massachusetts.
However, the massive demonstrations in Boston — punctuated by calls to “defund the police” — have had another ironic consequence: millions of dollars in additional salary for the police.
According to records obtained by the State House New Service, the city of Boston paid nearly $5.8 million in overtime pay to police officers who worked shifts in response to the protests in May, June, and July.
The majority of the money, $5.3 million, was paid for a total of 82,054 hours in June when the protests were at their peak. Overall, Boston police worked 88,893.25 overtime hours earning exactly $5,795,518, which averages out to just over $65 an hour.
While additional officers have long been commonly staffed for large gatherings, Boston police spokesman John Boyle told the State House News Service that they have increased those levels since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
The total spent in response to the protests made up just under 10 percent of the Boston Police Department’s allotted $61 million overtime budget, which Mayor Marty Walsh announced in June will be cut by 20 percent in order to reallocate more funds toward social services.
During a press conference at the time, Walsh said city officials initially hoped to have “savings” in the police overtime budget, since virtually all large gatherings — including parades, festivals, and the Boston Marathon — had been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, that’s not the case because of the protests,” Walsh said.
Police officials told city councilors last week that the department — which is legally allowed to overrun its budget and regularly does — ultimately spent about $72.5 million on overtime in the 2020 fiscal year, which ran through the end of June.
According to the department, “replacement personnel” to fill positions left vacant by officers who are injured, ill, or on vacation and “extended tours” where members simply work beyond their scheduled shifts account for almost exactly two-thirds of the overtime budget.
But it wasn’t only the recent protests that drove the cost overruns; the department has also been hit hard by COVID-19, and, as of last week, 32 officers were still out due the virus. One officer also died due to COVID-19 complications in April.
“With the multiple demonstrations and the replacement costs of those officers who were affected by the COVID, it drove those numbers skyrocketing,” Superintendent James Hasson said during the City Council hearing last week.
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