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The Bay State Banner
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BPD on court overtime: ‘We’re investigating’

Still no answers on apparent OT conflicts after two years

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
BPD on court overtime: ‘We’re investigating’
Police officers can collect overtime for court appearances if they are not on duty. BANNER PHOTO

Two years after launching an investigation into Boston Police Department records that showed officers appearing to collect court overtime pay while on duty outside of courthouses, a department spokesman told the Banner the investigation by the Bureau of Professional Standards is ongoing.

“It is still an active investigation,” said Sgt. John Boyle. “Each investigation is unique. There is no standard timeline on any of our investigations.”

The office of Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement to the Banner that the administration will seek to institute reforms through negotiations on the union contract.

“… [T]hrough our ongoing union contract negotiations, we are working to rebuild community trust throughout the department through clear reforms that hold officers accountable for wrongdoing,” the statement reads. “Tackling court overtime abuse and misuse is a crucial part of our police reform agenda.”

In 2020, Boston resident Nathaniel Story analyzed records of court overtime that District 5 City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo had requested from the department. The records, which spanned 2016 to 2019, showed multiple instances in which officers collecting overtime for court appearances authored police reports for arrests, traffic stops or field intelligence observations (FIOs) during the time period they claimed to be in court.

Officers receive a minimum of four hours of overtime during court appearances if they’re in court while not on duty. The arrests, traffic stops and FIOs appear to indicate that the officers were being paid for being on duty while collecting off-duty overtime.

Arroyo said police officials have been less than transparent about the apparent conflicts since the Banner first made inquiries of the department in 2020.

“Besides the obvious issue with an institution taking this long for an investigation, the scope of the investigation has never been clear,” he said.

Arroyo noted that the court overtime records he received in 2020 were matched with a database of redacted police reports that only shared the name of the officer who authored the report. Usually, police reports include the names of responding officers. Were the names of other responding officers included in the data set, it may have revealed additional instances of officers collecting court overtime while appearing to be on duty elsewhere.

“It’s possible that the number of officers involved could be substantially larger,” Arroyo said. “The scope of the investigation should be greater than the 126 names of officers who were in a database that is visible to the public.”

Beyond matters the city might bring up with police union officials during the negotiation of contracts, Arroyo said there are simple steps the department could take to minimize fraud or shoddy record keeping. For instance, officers appearing for court duty currently fill out slips of paper recording their arrival and departure from a courthouse. Arroyo suggests the department use some form of electronic verification for officers arriving and departing a courthouse.