Policing is unpredictable. It’s impractical to have enough police on staff to manage every street brawl, shooting, or festival parade. Police working events like these usually work overtime.
But in Portland recently, the police say that the majority of overtime they work is not due to these kinds of events, and that most overtime is needed just to schedule enough officers for daily patrol because of a staffing shortage. That reasoning makes so much sense that the Bureau hardly questions that it spent $15.7 million on overtime in Fiscal Year 2017-2018 and that officers worked nearly 250,000 extra hours. The reliance on overtime is costly and poses safety risks to officers and community members.
Within this context, some common-sense policies and procedures to limit overtime have fallen by the wayside or were never used in the first place. Using data and timely reports to manage staffing better, placing limits on the amount of overtime officers can work, and taking control of the time police work on contract for outside employers could all lessen the demand for overtime.