Suffolk Police overtime is expected to jump by 20 percent to $36.5 million by the end of the year, exceeding the budget by more than $6 million, top police officials told county legislators Thursday.
Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said higher base pay under new union contracts, major crime investigations into drugs and reduced staffing due to retirements and resignations had caused overtime to rise. As of July, there were 2,289 sworn officers, compared with 2,726 in 2004.
Police spent $30.45 million on overtime last year; $28.75 million in 2012; $29.3 million in 2011 and $34.725 million in 2010.
Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley), chairwoman of the Public Safety Committee, expressed concern about the costs and pressed for hiring more officers.
"I want to make sure our overtime costs are not out of control," Browning said Thursday. "I think we would save money by hiring new officers off the street."
Chief of Department James Burke, the department's top uniformed officer, told the committee that police are focused on lowering violent and property crime. That includes calling in additional officers when a crime pattern is identified.
"We're not afraid to commit real resources to problems," Burke said.
Justin Meyers, spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, said the county has carefully analyzed the costs of hiring additional staff compared with filling in with overtime.
"At certain times, it's more cost-effective to do overtime than add police officers," Meyers said. "We're policing this county in the most cost-effective way possible."
Meyers cited major winter snowstorms and special events including the state Democratic convention in Melville in May as overtime drivers.
Fallon noted the investigation of a string of 15 fast-food restaurant robberies in a 30-day period. "We had over 50 officers investigating the case," Fallon said.
Mark White, chief of support services, said 65 cadets will enter the police academy before the end of November, and they're expected to be on the streets within nine months.