For the Boston City Council, the discussion regarding police overtime is far from over, as some on the body are pushing to make sure reductions to that budget line item become a reality and are calling for Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s team to provide a detailed plan of how the cuts will be achieved.
Police overtime is one of the few line items in the operating budget that is allowed to run over its allotted amount, said Councilor Kenzie Bok, who is chairwoman of the council’s Ways and Means Committee. Ensuring the police overtime cut becomes a reality will require “a real plan and intense council oversight,” said Bok.
The city’s operating budget approved last month includes the reallocation of $12 million in police overtime spending — 20 percent of the department’s overtime budget — to other programs, including $3 million to the Public Health Commission for programs to combat systemic racism.
It was not enough for some residents and advocates, who pushed for more money to be rerouted from the police budget to community programs.
Now, Bok said her committee needs to see overtime cuts be made real. To that end, a proposal that will be discussed at this week’s council meeting asks the Walsh administration and the Boston Police Department to “present an active management plan for achieving the $12 million reduction in police overtime promised in the FY21 budget.” She said her committee plans to institute quarterly hearings to hold the administration to such a plan.
“Police accountability includes budget accountability,” said Bok in a statement.
According to Bok’s office, the council will consider how police overtime was reduced in past administrations and what systemic changes could lead to less need for overtime overall, “including reducing or eliminating military exercises, halting the over-policing of Black and brown men through disproportionate stops, and taking other steps to respond to public distrust, especially in communities of color.”
Councilor Andrea Campbell said in a statement that transforming the city’s policing system “requires many reforms and the budget including our exorbitant overtime costs is one area in need of immediate reform.”
In a statement, Councilor Matt O’Malley said he is looking “forward to taking a deeper review at the hearing including discussing removing any policies that encourage the use of overtime as a normal rather than an unusual practice, addressing the four-hour minimum for court details, and implementing an accountability mechanism for reviewing payroll data.”
Another hearing order to be considered at Wednesday’s meeting aims to discuss Boston’s “police contracts as policy documents, including their relevance to desired improvements in police accountability and transparency and an overall shift in departmental resource allocations.”
While the council has no seat at the bargaining table for such union contracts, Bok said many policies and procedures for police lead “back to the collective bargaining agreement.” Bok said the hope was such a hearing order would underline the fact that the status quo will no longer be tolerated.
“Many of the reforms residents, activists, and I have been pushing for must be initiated in collective bargaining discussions including disciplinary practices for officers, overtime minimums and regulations, and training requirements for officers within the Police Department,” said Campbell.
Pam Kocher, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, noted Monday that the council is effectively the last stop for approval of collective bargaining agreements, adding that the body has the power to reject funding such pacts. Historically, according to Kocher, the council has had a reputation for “rubber-stamping” such agreements.
“It’s big dollars and pretty important agreements,” said Kocher.