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How we analyzed overtime pay at developmental centers

To examine overtime at the Office of Protective Services, the in-house police force at California’s five developmental centers, California Watch performed a computer-assisted analysis of state and local finance data.

Data on the officers’ compensation is collected by the state controller and maintained by The Sacramento Bee, which publishes a searchable database of state worker pay on its website.

The pay data includes the dollar amounts paid to Office of Protective Services employees in base salary, overtime and “other,” which includes a wide variety of compensation, including severance and bonus pay for duties outside the scope of their primary job. We included four years in the analysis, 2008 through 2011.

First, we calculated the number of developmental center officers and investigators who earned as much in overtime pay as they did in base salary at least once during those four years. We limited the analysis to full-time employees, including only members of the Office of Protective Services who received at least the minimum annual salary of $41,000. During the period, 22 officers doubled their income with overtime pay.

Overtime accounted for 28 percent of all pay at the Office of Protective Services in 2010; median overtime pay per officer was $18,323.

These findings show developmental center officers receive large overtime payouts, but by themselves do not indicate whether the overtime is unusually large compared to other police agencies. To provide points of comparison, we obtained police pay data for the California Highway Patrol and the cities of San Francisco, San Jose, Vallejo and Santa Cruz.

The Office of Protective Services is unlike any other police agency in California, serving 1,800 developmentally disabled patients at five institutions across the state. So we sought out a diverse collection of departments to compare overtime spending.

We selected the California Highway Patrol because it is the most recognized law enforcement agency in the state. Vallejo and Santa Cruz police departments employ about the same number of sworn officers as the Office of Protective Services. We included the San Francisco and San Jose departments to assess how the developmental center force compares against large police agencies.

We narrowed this part of the analysis to the 2010 fiscal year, the most recent data available for the comparison agencies.

The Office of Protective Services’ overtime percentages dwarfed the other agencies we analyzed. The agency’s rate in 2010 was more than double those at the Vallejo (12.1 percent) and Santa Cruz (11.7 percent) police departments and about quadruple the rates at the San Francisco (7.6 percent) and San Jose (6.3 percent) police departments.

Overtime as a percentage of total pay is a particularly useful measurement for assessing overtime spending because it removes from the equation salary disparities between police departments. This is important, as developmental center officers’ salaries are roughly half as much as those of their colleagues at other law enforcement agencies.

Our reporting on developmental center police overtime also sought to determine whether it was feasible for officers to actually work the extra hours for which they’ve been paid.

The Department of Developmental Services, which oversees the police force, denied a California Watch public records request for overtime request forms and timesheets documenting overtime hours claimed by select developmental center officers.

Dianne Robbins, assistant chief counsel at the department, wrote in an August 2011 letter that police officer payroll records are personnel records under state law. “Those records are confidential and therefore non-disclosable,” Robbins wrote.

The California Supreme Court in 2007 rejected the contention that police offers’ payroll records are part of confidential personnel files. In their ruling, the justices wrote: “Penal Code sections 832.7 and 832.8 do not mandate that city payroll records reflecting peace officer salary information be excluded from disclosure merely because some of the facts relied upon in determining the amount of salary may be recorded in the agency's personnel files.”

California Watch cited the 2007 opinion in an appeal. The Department of Developmental Services continued to deny the request. Robbins responded in an October 2011 letter that the state Supreme Court ruling found “peace officer salary information is not confidential,” but that did not apply to timesheets and overtime claims. She concluded, “peace officer payroll records remain confidential and non-disclosable.”

California Watch then turned to the salary data kept by our news network partners at The Sacramento Bee.

We calculated an estimated number of overtime hours each full-time developmental center officer would have claimed to generate the extra pay per year. To reach that estimate, we divided the officers’ base pay by the number of work hours in a year (2080 hours, except for leap years). That provided the regular hourly wage.

We multiplied the regular hourly rate by 1.5, resulting in the estimated overtime hourly pay rate. Finally, we divided the officers’ total amount of extra pay each year by their hourly overtime rate, yielding an estimate of overtime hours claimed.

The 22 patrol officers and detectives at the Office of Protective Services who doubled their salary with overtime from 2008 to 2011 claimed an estimated average of 1,829 hours a year of extra work. For perspective, U.S. workers average about 1,800 work hours a year in total, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This story was edited by Robert Salladay and Mark Katches. It was copy edited by Nikki Frick and Stephanie Rice.

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