The city’s largest police union is denouncing decisions that forced more than 120 officers to work long overtime last weekend, with the majority of those officers mandated to work at least 16 hours and some officers forced to work for 24 hours straight.
The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association criticized the department for A press release on Monday, calling the practice dangerous and indicative of the agency’s “gross understaffing”.
The union, which has 400 members including police officers, paramedics and paramedics, is now calling on the city to immediately hire more officers to ease the need for marathon overtime and scale the number of concurrent events the city authorized.
“The BPPA has been asking the City to hire more cops for years. The chronic understaffing of the BPD now results in a dangerous situation where officers have to work 24 hours straight,” BPPA Chairman Larry Calderone said in a statement. “This is totally unacceptable; the City is playing with the safety of our community and our members through these reckless staffing decisions. We demand that the department end dangerous staffing and hire more officers! »
According to the union, the long overtime on Saturday was due to the need for officers to organize several events: a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, a festival in the seaport and the city-sponsored block party in Jamaica Plain. .
The vast majority of officers working on Saturdays have been ordered to work overtime or, in other words, given no choice but to take longer shifts, according to the union. The band called the long hours “physically and psychologically exhausting.”
“A number of officers were in fact ordered to work three shifts in a row – or 24 hours in a row,” the statement said, adding that at least five officers were also ordered to work shifts. 24 hours on Saturday, June 25.
“It is simply dangerous and cannot be allowed to happen,” the union said. “Officers simply can’t work that many hours and still have to make split-second decisions in life-threatening situations.”
The union statement went on to call the city’s decision to allow multiple events on the same day “irresponsible.”
The organization also said the issue “demonstrates why the city is spending so much on overtime – there just aren’t enough officers working for the BPD!”
A Boston Police Department spokesperson did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.
The force’s understaffing issues have emerged in recent years as city officials have attempted to rein in the department’s overtime pay spending, particularly in the context of a move to redirect portions of the department’s budgets. law enforcement to other city-funded, community-focused programs in the wake. of the racial justice movement in 2020.
Two years ago, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh cut the overtime budget by $12 million.
And last year, Acting Mayor Kim Janey sought to cut the overtime budget by $21 million from what the agency was expected to spend.
Cutting costs can be tricky for City Hall: Under state law, the city must pay all overtime for public safety agencies, whether or not those expenses exceed their allocated budgets.
This year, the council initially sought to cut $10 million from the overtime budget, but Mayor Michelle Wu rejected that offer, arguing the move would destabilize the city’s fiscal plan and put Boston in a position to repeat a overspending pattern.
Notably, many municipal leaders understand and agree on the need for more sworn officers – at least as a way to cut costs.
City Council Speaker Ed Flynn previously called on the city to hire up to hundreds of new officers as the department anticipates more retirements in the coming years.
Last year, Janey’s budget was to increase the department by 30 officers as well as the number of cadet recruits by 20 cadets, or 50%.
This year, Wu’s budget, passed by the city council last month, does the same by expanding the cadet class by 50 percent, or 30 people, to a total of 90 cadets.
The council passed the city’s $3.99 billion operating budget last month.
However, thanks to the modified operating budget, Wu reallocated $1.2 million from the police budget in part by delaying the next class of recruits by two months.
“Should net state revenues exceed current forecasts in the coming months as the state budget is finalized, it will be a top priority to restore and accelerate our recruit class,” Wu wrote to the media. advisers in June.
Asked about the BPPA’s immediate call for more officers on Tuesday, a city spokesperson, in a statement, said: ‘We are grateful for the service of our Boston police officers every day to ensure safety residents and visitors to Boston.”
During a hearing with city councilors in July 2020, Boston police officials outlined several options they were considering to cut costs in order to meet Walsh’s overtime budget goals.
One such long-term option was to hire civilians to fill administrative positions that are currently occupied by approximately 80 to 100 sworn officers.
Department officials said that would require negotiations with the city’s police unions, however.
Stay up to date on all the latest news from Boston.com