Overtime for Chicago police officers and firefighters soaring

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CHICAGO — In a city with continuing budget woes, overtime for police officers and firefighters is soaring.

As reported by the Sun-Times, taxpayers spent roughly $210 million on overtime last year.

“That’s an extraordinary amount of money. It raises the question do we have the right level of staffing?”Laurence Msall with Civic Federation said. "Should we be hiring more people are our the abuses really where the focus should be?”

The surge in overtime comes as the city added more technology and manpower.

Msall points to minimum staffing requirements for the fire department as part of the reason for the cost surge. He said the requirements are outdated.

"The Illinois General Assembly is complicate in the inefficiency because the state of Illinois often requires in the case of fireman how many firemen are on a truck, what the staffing levels are,” Msall said. "That does not reflect the actual needs, it reflects and outdated idea about how to staff fire prevention needs.”

The Firefighters Union notes the department provides crucial emergency medical services, but the city’s inspector general has called for changes to the minimum staffing requirement.

The mayor has said everything must be on the table.

"I think the mayor has shown her frustration on overtime, especially for police and for fire, but in particular, the city has not always done a great job of budgeting for overtime and being transparent about it,” Msall said.

The police department has been working on the overtime issue since Mayor Lightfoot demanded reforms over the summer. Since then, the department said it put in place structural changes to control overtime.

Overtime is now monitored using electronic records. Personnel now swipe in and out of work and commanders are given an overtime budget to manage.

On Thursday, the City Council Committee on Public Safety will meet. One alderman told WGN overtime is expected to be a topic of discussion.

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