Recently the Gazette reported an analysis of one year of data (FY20) regarding police overtime. There are two important points of note I want to share.
1) First and foremost; The analysis didn’t take into consideration that FY20 resulted in the first full year under COVID. At least 27 officers and police representatives were quarantined which resulted in overtime to fill and meet day-to-day needs, compounded by the extra duties created due also to COVID response. Most of these hours if not all will be eligible through pay out of the CARES Act and I would assume time was covered using such funding sources. Also, we had recently eliminated a captain position which makes me assume that supervisors are filling the gap to meet the tasks of that position. Moreover, providing merit pay for first responders like our police officers and firefighters who were risking their health on the frontlines during this pandemic is a priority of mine through the second round of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
2) Most importantly, the general issue of excessive overtime is a symptom of a larger problem. It would be unwise for us to single out the Police Department if we want to strategically resolve the management gap we have at City Hall. What we are seeing at the Police Department is a direct result of how Holyoke manages its affairs. We have a disjointed administrative structure lacking in clear lines of authority, accountability, and fundamental financial management practices. Although the police are taking the proverbial heat at the moment, there are without a doubt, similar issues across all municipal departments.
The focus of a Garcia Administration will be making the necessary system changes at City Hall that will safeguard public funds, protect our assets, and establish a system that complies with financial standards and regulations. By strengthening measures that maintain accountability within city government, we will have the ability to support departments and meet the needs of our neighborhoods while better mitigating wasteful impacts such as excessive use of overtime.