Blue Moonlighting

An audit of how on- and off-duty work hours, as well as overtime hours, are tracked for officers at the Denver Police Department was released Thursday, April 17, nearly three years after it began. But it may not prove too useful because the police department has since changed the system that it uses to log officer hours.

One of the main problems discovered after the auditor’s office tracked fifteen officers (of the department’s 1,400) and how they account for their work hours found that the police have eight different ways of tallying them, including off-duty hours in uniform. Of the eight, just five are kept in the same accounting system (some systems are still done on paper), which makes it hard to know if officers are exceeding the department’s 64-hour limit, or double-dipping -- calling in sick to work other jobs and collecting two checks (see cover story).

The audit (see it here), however, didn’t take into consideration the department’s new time-tracking software, TeleStaff, because it only had a small amount of information about it. What little information the auditors were able to obtain about the new program indicated that it isn’t deal either, because it’s more of a scheduling program than a time tracking one.

Plus, it’s still not fully implemented.

Denver’s Manager of Safety, Al Lacabe, said the audit will still be useful in helping the department’s streamline the tracking of hours. “I want to talk about some philosophical things that will carry us forward,” Lacabe told the auditing committee. “We’ve tried to put band-aids on this as opposed to looking at things systematically.”

Lacabe said that making changes in the department is a cultural issue and that making sure it doesn’t disclose information that could jeopardize law enforcement is important. But he still wants to give up enough details to learn to improve. He pointed out that the band-aid approach is what lead to so many different accounting systems. “I think the department has responded to the audit and responded to it well,” Lacabe said.

The audit also found that two of the fifteen officers scheduled secondary employment work while they were on sick leave or limited duty status and that some worked in uniform even after they’d left the force. Ten of the fifteen officers tracked had overlaps in their time accounting, meaning they may have been paid twice for the same time.

Currently, the secondary employment tracking system only counts hours that officers are supposed to work, as opposed to those actually worked. Plus, it’s not yet taking off-duty hours into account in the main database. The audit suggested an increase in administrative oversight of off-duty hours and noted that some hours were counted incorrectly. The audit also found that officers were late in turning in their form for accounting of the hours and that some worked in places that were not pre-approved by the department, as is mandated.

Auditors suggested that the work contracts be handled, negotiated and sought by the department as opposed to the current practice were officers can negotiate themselves or even get paid by private business for scheduling other officers to work off-duty. It also suggested that officers not be paid in cash, as is typically the current practice.

In its response to the audit, the department chief stated that the incidences of double dipping are overstated because of the small number of officers surveyed, and that the current system only tracks scheduled off-duty hours. So if those hours aren’t cancelled before the officer calls in sick that it would give the appearance of double dipping.

The department also maintained that officers who allegedly worked off-duty while no longer on the force were data-entry errors of badge numbers, not actually retired cops working.

The auditor’s office plans a follow-up on the new time-keeping system after it is fully implemented, which the department estimates will be handled by year’s end. -- Luke Turf