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Boston Police blowing through overtime budget; blames Covid-19, injuries, protests

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.

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2100 officers total. 220 officers out with injuries.

Those are NFL numbers.

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Voting closed 36

"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."

Can you imagine the outcry if the teachers unions tried to pull this crap? 300 officers out (who knows how long) on paid leave for possible covid exposure. That's before counting the "injuries" stat mentioned above that is higher (per capita) than almost all other major police forces. Here's a great WBUR article about 10%+ of BPD officers out on disability, separate from covid.

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Umm, unlike teachers, police officers can't answer 911 calls through zoom...the police never took 1 day off during COVID...as they were exposed they were forced to quarantine...how do you not understand that

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I mean, they actually refused to come to work! (Not blaming them for that either though)

As for the injuries there are a lot of scammers that is true....

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Quarantines are mandated by public health authorities based on specific exposure criteria, so I'm not exactly sure what you expect a law enforcement agency (or any employer) to do here other than allow their employees to follow the laws designed to protect public health & safety.

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BPD can’t work remotely. They have a high chance of exposure and if possibly exposed they have to quarantine.

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...should be made to come to work and deal with the public at large?

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Zoom policing.

So the City can avoid overtime expenses due to police officers out on quarantine, they can set up computers in neighborhoods and police officers will monitor from home via Zoom or whatever videoconferencing platform of choice. Bonus is that you can record it all so it's like they're always wearing a body cam.

Works great, just like for teachers, right?

We should also make sure to not have health care workers take time off due to possible exposure. ESPECIALLY workers at nursing homes.

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For what its worth, many healthcare workers have remained working after exposure as long as they don't test positive and remain symptom free, but still have to follow quarantine outside of the workplace. Not ideal at all but neither is not having enough staffing in the hospital units.

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Sometimes it's better to make one argument at a time. When you combine everything it makes it easy to sink the whole argument/rant.

What I see here, and others did, is the audacity of attacking the department for doing what the CDC and health officials have required. I get the impression you would be the first person to scream if the department did not follow Covid guidelines and ended up infecting the public.

In fact quite a few officers I know across the state , being conservative , don't believe in a lot of the guidelines but they follow the rules given from above. So if you have a problem with how they handle covid take it to the policy makers, the officers and police leadership are doing what they are told to do regarding Covid.

I don't know enough about the other items to comment on and am not defending any of the other policies.

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And the retirement board is the only relief. There’s no incentive for officers to retire when they can collect tax free salary. BPD needs to push these disability retirements and hire new officers.

Of course, with the residency requirement, they are having difficulty filling up classes with qualified people.

Staffing and the resulting overtime expense is going to be a challenge for BPD in the near and long term.

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If you actually read what gets posted here you'd notice most arrests involve a "violent struggle" - fewer cops would get injured if they start cracking skulls when criminals try to resist arrest.

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Replace the BPD bike units with BTD bike units all year round during peak commuting hours, 6-10 2-7.

Then maybe the BTD will give a you know what about enforcing bike lane violations because they endanger their staff.

Parking violations etc all much easier to see from a bike.

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They don't want to do that.

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They could just bike around fishing for business. Close pass? Ticket in the mail. Block the lane? Ticket in the mail.

Dont even need to get off the bike, just give em a helmet cam.

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Sorry misunderstood what you meant. Yea they could do that. (Would involve a fitness test and a lot of injures though)

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The helmet cam idea is likely a stretch based on the current state of the law. But the amount of bike lane and other parking violations caught would likely increase dramatically. Its a lot easier to ignore the car obstructing the bike lane if you are unaffected driving by in your Ford Fusion.

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Boston bike cops are the worst.

They're also terrible cyclists. Wrong way riders, sidewalk riders. They are the worst.

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"Replace the BPD bike units with BTD bike units"?

Other than some parking violations, what enforcement power would a "BTD unit" have?

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get them each a bike (plenty at district 14)

let them work in their own neighborhoods because who knows traffic issues better than the people who live near the issues?

train them locally, at schools, with school resource officers

this will eliminate the need for the bpd gang unit and it creates nearly 4000 jobs.

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Perhaps not as many officers would have had exposure to COVID if they had actually been wearing masks like the rest of us. Never let a good crisis to go waste, I suppose. Oops sorry I can't work for two weeks, I guess my buddy will have to rake in some overtime pay, and then next month we'll switch!

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Cop purposely exposed themselves to COVID. If so you’re also saying COVID isn’t deadly.

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That cloth mask provides so much protection. NOT.

If you're exposed to a person with Covid, even if you're wearing a mask, doctors/public health officials are going to tell you to quarantine. You'd need to be wearing the kind of PPE required in a Covid ward at a hospital (i.e. N95/respirator, face shield, protective clothing) to avoid quarantine -- and even then, you'd still need regular testing for 10-14 days.

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Mayor Walsh and former Commissioner Gross formed the Bureau of Community Engagement. What have they done? Let’s start trimming some of these programs that show little or no real results. Put those officers back into stations to reduce overtime. Do we really need a high ranking officer playing basketball at a salary over $200k a year? It’s a waste of money.

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What protests? BLM was one. What are the others?

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So there was only one BLM protest ? I don't know where you were but I vaguely recall there being a protest or two a week at one point in the late spring. Not to mention the counter blue lives matter and pro Trump responses in the outskirts of town and not knowing how big each one would be.

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