CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — It’s not just leadership issues that are stirring up controversy in the Charleston Police Department. The staggering cost of police overtime pay is also raising some eyebrows.
Major events such as the return of the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta and Live on the Levee fuel the need for police overtime. But the city says they also generate a huge economic impact. The city is also boasting of a low crime rate and high arrest rates, but those also come with an increased overtime cost.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy says Charleston Police overtime exceeded $9 million in the past few years, three times what was budgeted.
The overtime also exceeds the money set aside for libraries and economic development. In fact, 17 officers reported more than 1,000 hours of overtime in 2022, an extra 20 hours per week.
There are concerns the choices will all take a costly toll.
“The research shows us that officers who work longer hours, are more likely to get sick, to have on-the-job injuries, to have more citizen complaints made against them. These are great conditions in any workplace,” said Sara Whitaker, of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy.
But the mayor and interim police chief issued a statement defending the overtime saying:
“We will always look for ways to improve how overtime is used, but it will not come at a determent to public safety. Our officers deserve to be paid for the hours they work; our citizens deserve the best out of their law enforcement division and we believe we provide them that on a daily basis.”
Some members of the city council have called on the mayor and interim chief to reign in the police overtime. Last year, nearly 1/3 of the department’s officers worked more than 600 hours of overtime.