BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Baton Rouge Police Department is shutting down all its non-vital operations for the upcoming holidays after the agency’s top brass consumed more than $100,000 in overtime pay for themselves.
“I think overall for the department, overtime pay has been a struggle,” Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Dwight Hudson said in an interview.
Signs of that struggle were seen in two interdepartmental memos, one of which was issued last week. In it, BRPD Chief Murphy Paul declared he’s shutting down all but the vital uniform patrol division (cops on the streets) for the upcoming holidays, with a few exceptions, in an effort to avoid paying overtime.
BRPD’s cash crunch appears to stem, at least in part, from the amount of overtime the agency has already paid to its top brass, including three deputy chiefs and the commanders of internal affairs and uniform patrol.
WAFB’s 9News Investigators sifted through nine months of payroll records for those five officers, analyzing their overtime pay from January through mid-September. The records show Internal Affairs Commander Sgt. Myron Daniels claimed 200 hours of overtime worth $10,218. This is in addition to his annual base salary of $59,774. They also show Uniform Patrol Commander Capt. Kevin Newman claimed just short of 300 hours of overtime for $16,954. His annual base salary is $72,012.
But compare those figures to the department’s three deputy chiefs, who are already the highest paid officers below the chief, each with nearly six figure salaries of $95,735 a year.
Dep. Chief Jonny Dunnam claimed 337 overtime hours, earning an extra $25,210. And Dep. Chief Herbert “Tweety” Anny claimed 371 overtime hours for an additional $27,219, records show. Last but not least is Dep. Chief Robert McGarner, who claimed more just in overtime than a rookie officer makes all year. McGarner claimed 508 overtime hours, padding his nearly six figure salary with an extra $37,270. Meanwhile, a BRPD rookie starts off making less than $33,000 a year for patrolling the front lines.
Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a public corruption watchdog group, took issue with the amount of money the top brass is paying itself.
“These people are [already] well taken care of,” Goyeneche said. “The people of Baton Rouge in the detective bureau that is overworked and under-compensated, they are being told to stand down because of the money that was paid to this group of five people.”
All five officers had a work schedule of four days per week at 10 hours per day, but records show they would often work a fifth day, all of it at the overtime rate.
“So what the chief did is he allowed his senior management to consume resources that could have been used to pay overtime for the patrol division and the detective bureau that are making hourly wages of anywhere between $15 to $25 an hour and that would more directly impact public safety,” Goyeneche said.
Department policy requires officers to explain and document all overtime hours. However, all of Capt. Newman’s explanations were redacted by BRPD’s legal team before they released the payroll records to WAFB. Many of Sgt. Daniels’ explanations were also redacted for the first part of the year, after which he repeatedly marked “mandatory staff meeting and administrative followup” on the Mondays he worked, which was his off day.
Dep. Chief Dunnam marked “admin duties,” “admin overtime,” or “admin meetings” just about every Friday, his day off. Similarly, Dep. Chief Tweety marked “admin duties” nearly every Friday and sometimes even Saturdays. And Dep. Chief McGarner was “admin OT” on Mondays, as well as many weekends. His explanations later switched to “chief staff meeting” for 10 hours. He also claimed overtime for “duty roster” and “payroll.” In the month of March alone, McGarner racked up 90 overtime hours.
Goyeneche said he doesn’t find those explanations appropriate given these supervisors hold primarily administrative positions.
“I would love to hear the chief’s explanation on this overtime,” he said.
The 9News Investigators were scheduled to interview the Chief Murphy Paul Tuesday morning, but he instead sent Dep. Chief Dunnam in his place. Dunnam said the chiefs have a staff meeting every Monday, which requires those who are off to come into work. When asked why they don’t meet on a day when everyone is already working, Dunnam said the chief decided to have it at the beginning of the week so he could plan out the week and assign specific duties.
He said he does not feel the top brass abused its overtime.
In fewer than nine months, those five BRPD officers together made more than $116,000 on top of their already high salaries. That’s more than enough to hire three new officers.
“Well every, every penny was, I can promise you that, was well spent,” Dunnam said. “You’re going to see decreases in crime at the end of this year from the previous year. You’re also going to see savings in overtime.”
Their total compensation, including base salaries and overtime, but not including benefits or outside work details, will cost taxpayers more than a half-million dollars this year.
“The public safety is being put on the back burner because this $116,000 isn't available to pay overtime,” Goyeneche said. “I think all five of these people share blame in this because this is the senior management. They are aware of the overtime they are earning.”
The 9News Investigators began asking questions about the overtime back in September. And within days of that, the order came down that schedules would immediately change for those five officers. They were switched to a regular five 8-hour day work week.
“We met with the budget officials in accounting to see if there were ways we could cut back on overtime,” Dunnam said. “Back on September 18 is when we officially went to five eights.”
“The fact that he has restructured this already is an indication that this wasn't necessary and it was totally preventable,” Goyeneche said. “But he's only now reforming it and eliminating it because the curtain has been pulled back on the waste.”
Editor’s Note: Chief Murphy Paul would only agree to an on-camera interview if WAFB reporter, Kiran Chawla, apologized to him for a report she did last week. She did not apologize, and our news management supports that decision. Chief Paul initially agreed to be interviewed for last week’s report, which focused on whether discipline within BRPD is being handed down fairly and consistently. At the last minute, the chief said he was not feeling well and sent Dep. Chief Jonny Dunnam in his place. Following that interview, the chief did offer to answer any followup questions, but Kiran did not have any.