Boston Police superintendents said today that they expect to spend roughly $63 million in overtime for the fiscal year that ends June 30 - less than the department spent last year, but $15 million more than the budget approved by the council.
At a hearing this morning, Supt. Jim Hasson blamed several factors. He said officers had to be brought in to replace other officers knocked out either by Covid-19 or because they were told to quarantine because of possible exposure. Hasson said at one point, the department had to replace some 300 officers either in quarantine or recovering from Covid-19.
Also, with an aging force, more officers are getting injured or retiring, forcing the department to bring in other officers on overtime. There are currently some 220 officers out with injuries, Hasson said. "Social and political" protests, including during the November election week, also meant the need for extra officers on overtime, as did increased patrols in the Mass/Cass area, he said.
The department spent $4.1 million on overtime both to have officers at polling places and stationed at areas around the city in case of "potential unrest or confrontation with varying groups" for a couple of days after the election and again on Jan. 20, he said.
The department had budgeted for about 14,000 weekly hours of "replacement" overtime, but is currently running at 19,000 to 20,000 a week, he said, adding the department has to do that to carry out its primary goal of protecting the city.
Last year, the council and mayor agreed to cut the BPD overtime budget from $60 million to $48 million, with the assumption the $12 million would be funneled into social-services efforts. Hasson said, however, other city departments have yet to fully step up, leaving BPD to continue to perform some social-service work it shouldn't be doing.
Supt. Kevin McGoldrick said that the department has tried to expand its connections with social-service agencies, but that that hasn't meant a reduction in the need for police - because people sent on such calls often request police accompaniment.
Councilor Kenzie Bok (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Mission Hill), who chaired the ways-and-means hearing, called the news "frustrating" and said a contractor the department recently hired to try to help officers get back to work as quickly as possible should have been hired way earlier in the fiscal year.
Councilor Andrea Campbell, who has advocated eliminating the BPD gang and bicycle units and reassigning their officers to neighborhood beats, asked whether that would help reduce overtime costs. Hasson said members of those units are already effectively assigned to neighborhoods.
Councilor Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, Downtown) said the issue is simple: "We don't have enough police officers on the streets of Boston." He called for hiring "several hundred" additional police officers, which he said would largely eliminate the need for forced overtime. The department currently has roughly 2,100 officers.