Mike, tell us a bit about your law enforcement background.
My law enforcement career started in 1988 as a Patrolman in Waterbury, CT. My entire 25-year career was with the Waterbury Police Department. I became Chief of Police in 2009 and retired in 2013.
Does Waterbury have an extra duty program?
Yes, Waterbury is a city of 110,000 with a good amount of activity: construction and traffic, events, nightlife. So there is both a strong demand for extra duty work from the community and a strong interest in such work from the officers. Overtime detail is limited, so many of the officers rely upon extra duty details to supplement their income.
How did the program operate on a day-to-day level?
We had a Sergeant administering the program. His hours were 6am to 2pm. He had a card file with one index card for each officer who wanted to be considered for extra duty details. When a detail request came in, he would call whoever’s card was in the front of that file. Whether they accepted and worked that detail or not, their card would then go to the back of the card file and that officer would next get called for an another extra duty detail when his card made it back to the front of the file.
Did the department incur any problems with that system?
Yes, there were a number of issues. The system was, at times, manipulated; for example, there were times when the Sergeant’s friends would get more than their fair share of preferred details awarded to them. This sometimes resulted in union grievances.
Additionally, at times we were operating under general budget constraints. During those times, that extra duty sergeant would have to work the street. This would cause a few problems:
First, part of the Sergeant’s role was to occasionally go out to the extra duty detail locations and check in on the officers working those details. We didn’t have technology-based check-in and check-out systems or tight feedback loops with the clients. Without the oversight from the Sergeant, some of the officers working extra duty details would fool around, spend the whole detail texting or not show up at all and still put in for the payment.
Second, when calls came in from customers requesting extra duty officers and the Sergeant didn’t field them, the calls were handed by the desk Sergeant and booking officers. They didn’t take the extra duty details seriously. This led to last minute requests going unfulfilled since they wouldn’t put the effort in to fill them. It also led to additional manipulation: calling friends to take the details – issues like that would crop up.
What would happen when a friend rather than the next officer who should have been offered an extra duty detail was awarded the detail?
A number of times grievances were filed. The chief would have to spend time on the grievance and if that didn’t solve the issue, it would go to human resources and finally the state labor board beyond that. Often the chief ends up just paying twice to make the problem go away – once to the “friend” who worked the detail and once to the officer who should have been offered the detail but didn’t get it.
It would be a waste of both leadership time and department budget.
What other big issues, if any, did you incur with the program?
As you can imagine, some of the officers were very interested in working as much extra duty as they could. Some guys worked so much extra duty it would adversely affect their on-duty performance. We had one guy who would work an extra duty detail overnight and then come directly from that in for his regular shift. He’d get in a patrol car, drive around behind the building and sleep.
We once had a fistfight in the station. One officer, who worked a lot of extra duty and watched that file box I mentioned like a hawk, thought the in charge was shortchanging him on extra duty opportunities. Their argument got so heated it end with punches being thrown.
So given your experience, do you think offering extra duty details is a good thing?
I do. It’s good for the department, for the officers and for the local business community. The issue with most of these programs is the administration of the actual program. You have cops doing non-cop stuff and that leads to all these issues. Better off having law enforcement enforcing the law and having administrative duties be handled by others.