Rob Perez

Raising Cane

By Rob Perez

Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Police union questions
use of overtime

Talk to Detective Alex Garcia and he will tell you management of the Honolulu Police Department does a poor job of managing overtime.

Talk to the department's budget expert and she will give you an entirely different picture, one much more benign.

It's all a matter of perspective.

Garcia, Oahu chairman of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, believes the department is so tight with overtime most of the fiscal year that officers sometimes can't do their jobs thoroughly and completely.

When the final month arrives, however, managers realize they have surplus money and scramble for ways to spend it before the year is up, according to Garcia.

Any unspent money at the end of June (the final month of the fiscal year) typically reverts to the city's general fund.

The department uses surplus funds to pay for special, and commendable, year-end initiatives, such as the department's current crackdown on speeders, but keeping such tight reins the rest of the year hurts the quality of police work and is done so managers can look good, Garcia said.

"It's just bad management," he said.

Maj. Susan Ballard, who oversees the HPD budget, has a very different take.

For one thing, Ballard said, she can't imagine any commander telling officers they can't complete their work because of an overtime crackdown.

"That isn't going to happen," she said.

Also, the stepped-up traffic enforcement and education initiative, which provides extra overtime so officers can target speeders, is being funded with leftover money budgeted for the Asian Development Bank meetings in May, she said.

Preparing for a worst-case protest scenario, the department set aside about $1 million for ADB-related overtime, Ballard said. But a substantial chunk of that was unused.

Ballard understands how some officers can get the impression -- which she says is mistaken -- that the traffic initiative was created specifically to use surplus funds.

Chief Lee Donohue's office, though, started planning the program in May without knowing unused ADB money would be available to fund it, she said.

The initial idea was to look for overtime and grant money to cover the roughly $200,000 price tag.

The initiative was launched this month and runs through December.

Ballard acknowledged that the department has kept a closer watch on overtime since 1998, when it depleted its overtime budget with three months still left in the fiscal year.

While the department expects to use its full overtime allotment this fiscal year, it anticipates returning more than $5 million to city coffers because of budgeted positions that were unfilled or filled only part of the year, according to Ballard.

Star-Bulletin columnist Rob Perez writes on issues
and events affecting Hawaii. Fax 529-4750, or write to
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu 96813. He can also be reached
by e-mail at:

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