With an understaffed New Haven Police Department and officer overtime expenses projected to reach double the budgeted amount for the fiscal year, New Haven city officials are making a concerted effort to address inflated overtime costs. As a result, city cop overtime allocations have seen considerable decreases.

This fiscal year, which extends to July, the NHPD set a $4.41 million budget for overtime. But the department had a projected yearly overtime expenditure of $8.25 million as of November 2018. However, in recent weeks, overtime expenditure has decreased from approximately $170,000 in November to around $110,000, according to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer. These decreases came despite added overtime that crept up from vacation time at the end of the year — “backflood,” as Grotheer noted.

Overtime cost reduction decreases have not come completely by chance but rather through a calculated effort by city and police officials to streamline the NHPD and reduce costs.

Acting Chief Administrative Officer Sean Matteson is currently working with the Board of Alders to adjust line items within the district’s police budget, in order to address the over-budget expenditures and cover the existing overtime expenses within the year’s allotted budget, Grotheer said.

The Elm City’s monthly financial and budgeting report for November disclosed that salary savings for the department are projected to further offset part of the overtime deficit.

The NHPD has struggled with understaffing since early 2018. The Department currently boasts nearly 100 vacancies — including four police captain and 10 detective positions, according to the monthly report from November. Grotheer said that New Haven remains at risk for police understaffing because other municipality departments offer higher salaries.

According to the NHPD’s 2017 applicant handbook, New Haven cops initially earn $44,000 a year — one of the lowest starting salaries of any department statewide. Neighboring Hamden police officers start out at a $76,000 salary and can make an additional $7,000 after four years of service. And University police officers earn a starting salary of $67,797, with their top pay reaching $85,613, according to Andrew Matthews, Yale police union’s attorney.

Grotheer attributes the movement of NHPD officers to other cities as a result of the high-quality officer training offered by the Elm City. He said that New Haven police recruits and cadets receive “some of the best training available,” including de-escalation training, which makes the NHPD officers attractive to other jurisdictions.

However, this training is costly in both money and time. Instruction of new officers costs the city around $65,000 per officer and lasts approximately six months, according to Grotheer. The NHPD graduated 35 members from its police academy in 2015 but lost 10 of those officers by the end of 2017, according to data obtained by the city’s human resources office.

This week, legislation was introduced in Hartford by members of the city’s legislative delegation to change state laws to provide for more realistic reimbursement for the training costs by New Haven.

“If state law is changed to allow for more realistic reimbursement rates, then it isn’t as economically advantageous for officers to leave,” Grotheer said.

Matteson referred the News to Grotheer for further inquiries.

Grotheer said that while the budgeted positions for the NHPD have already been created for this fiscal year, officials brought up the idea of decreasing budgeted positions within the department for the fiscal year of 2020, which will begin in six months.

One such streamlining change has already been enacted. When NHPD Media Liaison David Hartman retired on Jan. 4, NHPD Captain Anthony Duff quickly took over Hartman’s position.

He said that instead of bringing another police officer into the role, Duff has absorbed those responsibilities, allowing other police officers to be deployed as they would have otherwise.

“[Duff] has duties as a captain in the [NHPD], and he has added to his responsibilities those of the department’s Public Information Officer,” said Grotheer.

Sammy Westfall | sammy.westfall@yale.edu