An officer’s lot is a fiscally prudent one 

Forgive the double negative, but a million dollars is not nothing. It’s what the San Francisco Police Department projects it will save over a year’s time under an agreement struck with the Police Officers Association. In exemplary fashion, both parties came together to end a common practice that sticks city paymasters for overtime. It’s the kind of cooperation that can help the whole municipal government find sound fiscal direction. Taxpayers may salute.

The now-ended practice: During a two-hour window on weekday mornings, officers call a recorded message at the District Attorney’s Office seeking a yea or nay as to whether they’ll be needed to testify in court. Just for dialing in and engaging in the brief vocal exchange, the officers can tote up two hours of overtime pay. And because the courtroom duty must be conducted during off-hours, officers with starting salaries in the neighborhood of $30 an hour could take home a nice piece of change — rather like a minimum pay hike of $90 for a short telephone call.

Over the last six years, overtime has ballooned the department’s budget by about $15.8 million annually. Theoretically, as in most businesses, the objective should be to cut it to zero, a real-world impossibility with recruitments down and the wisdom that crime honors no time clock. And it’s hard to begrudge the valiant people who work to keep our streets safe some meansto better their lot.

So the give-back, even if it only cuts overtime to $14.8 million, should be appreciated on two levels. First, it shows good faith and prudence on the part of organized officers, whose enlightened self-interest is to maintain the department’s fiscal health. Second, though such practices reportedly are common in other big city police forces, the way these calls wink at payroll integrity really isn’t acceptable. What officer would want to explain those extra dollars to his children?

So the spirit of this part of the memorandum of understanding, expected to go into effect at the end of June when the old contract expires, should be hailed throughout The City. A million bucks saved by any municipal department is welcome. To paraphrase the late Illinois senator, Everett Dirksen (only he spoke in terms of billions), a million dollars here, a million dollars there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

That was, by contrast, real money the Department of Public Works was playing with when, for $80,000, it retained a consultant to examine its street-cleaning program, this excess following last month’s report detailing its manifest inefficiencies. Revelation of the added consultant prompted an incredulous Supervisor Sean Elsbernd to ask DPW Director Fred Abadi: "You’ve hired a consultant to tell us about where our street cleaners need to go?"

Evidently, the folks at the DPW can learn from the POA.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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