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County Comptroller George Marago’s audit this week on police overtime reported big numbers for the department, such as $315.2 million in total overtime costs over six years and $65.4 million for just 2014 alone.
But let’s bring it down to the individual.
Using Maragos’ numbers, a Nassau police officer in 2014 earned an average of about $28,700 in overtime compared with an average $11,125 in 2009.
A detective earned an average $28,400 in overtime in 2014 compared with $17,800 in 2009 while a superior officer, such as a captain or lieutenant, earned an average $32,400 in overtime compared with $15,100 in 2009.
County officials have blamed the increase in overtime on a decreasing number of sworn officers on the job. The county has already begun hiring more police with additional recruits planned.
Increased overtime also means increased pensions. A salary report by the legislature’s Office of Budget Review this year said the average sworn officer who retired in 2015 will earn approximately $26,000 more a year in pension payouts for the rest of their lives compared to those who retired in 2011.
However, averages are just averages.
Specifically, in 2015, there were 13 police officers and one police detective who earned more than $100,000 each in overtime, according to the payroll report provided by Newsday by Maragos’ office.
The highest overtime collected last year was $168,450 by a police officer whose base salary was $116,113.
Police Benevolent Association president James Carver said most of the officers who earned the high overtime are involved in drunken driving arrests. They work either highway patrol or in the central unit that tests drivers for intoxication. Those officers traditionally earn more because they make arrests late at night and earn overtime as the drivers move through the system.
A few of the high overtime earners are in undercover narcotics, he said, which also often involves long, late hours.
While putting more police on the streets will drop the total overtime costs, he said, “some guys are going to be high, no matter what. In narcotics, you can’t put in five guys to replace one guy,” he said, because of the nature of the investigations.