Police Win Challenge to Proposed Overtime Budget

The Derry Police Department has been involved in trying to prevent 16 drug overdoses since January, with 12 from heroin and the other four from other opiates. Five deaths resulted, four from heroin and one still under investigation. “These are troubling times for all of us,” Derry Police Chief Ed Garone told the Town Council and television audience.

Garone presented his 46th annual budget at the April 24 budget meeting. While there was a challenge to his overtime line, the budget eventually received unanimous approval.

The working budget is $8,794,064, a 2.1 percent increase over last year’s approved budget. Garone said he has 56 sworn officers, down from 60 a few years ago, and that gives him 1.69 officers per every 1,000 residents.

He is asking for no new positions or programs.

Does the current staffing allow him to be “progressive, proactive and preventative”? Garone said no.

Part of the 2.1 percent increase is due to the regular salary line, Garone said. He has built in $178,669 in hopes of resolving the administrative collective bargaining for his senior officers. Part of that amount is for raises for the Patrol Union, whose contract has been settled, he said.

Garone said in 2014 the then-Council reduced the overtime line by $50,000. He has asked for $731,522 in order to preserve the “level of services and quality of life.” Garone pointed out that the actual overtime paid for by residents is closer to $621,000, with the remainder being “details” that are reimbursed by outside sources.

Councilor Tom Cardon made a motion to drop the overtime (OT) line from $731,522 to $700,000. Councior David Fischer asked Garone what the impact of that would be.

Garone said a $50,000 reduction would be a loss of two patrols a week and $25,000, one patrol. With a $30,000 drop, it would also be one patrol, he said.

Capt. Vern Thomas, who schedules and manages overtime, said, “We run short. A lot of our OT is coverage. Some of our training is mandatory. Court appearances are mandatory.”

Garone amplified that OT covers training, court, so-called “earned time” including vacations, and overtime for detectives. They can’t plan on detective overtime, he explained. “If a crime occurs when a detective is not on duty, we have to call one in,” he said. “It’s important to have as many officers as possible on the scene, as soon as possible.”

Garone explained that in the recent TD Bank robbery, the officer who eventually ran the suspect to ground was not scheduled to be on that day.

“When we run short, it reduces our response time,” he said.

The amount approved for 2014 was $745,575 and is expended at $671,027, or 77 percent, at the time of the meeting, Garone said. The new budget takes effect July 1.

“The best way to answer this,” Thomas said, “is that we are on a balancing act. When we’re able, we keep someone later than their shift.” Two officers are scheduled to get off at 2 a.m., but for 25 recent nights they’ve been kept until 7 a.m. because of the amount of activity occurring in the early hours, he said.

Councilor Joshua Bourdon asked how they manage cutting a patrol. Thomas said the town was divided into four sectors and when they were down a patrol, they adjusted their three patrols to cover four sectors.

Council Chair Mark Osborne said, “If we had a total police budget of $10 million, I could easily see $1 million in overtime. For the past few years overtime has been coming in at 10 percent of the police budget. On paper, that’s a lot.”

One solution suggested by Garone is to hire more officers, which would allow the town to reduce its OT line. But that would cost too, with an entry-level officer estimated to come in at $80,000 including salary, benefits and other costs.

Officers’ absences account for about 50 percent of the OT, Garone said, with 20 percent due to training, 10 percent for court and 10 percent for Special Operations.

The Council voted 3-4 on reducing overtime, with Bourdon, Osborne and Cardon voting to cut overtime and Phyllis Katsakiores, Michael Fairbanks, Al Dimmock and Fischer voting against it.

The Council then voted unanimously to approve the budget of $8,794,064.