Don’t begrudge police their overtime pay

May 11, 2010

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RE “AMID cuts, big pay for police: Overtime, contract terms boost some Boston officers’’ (Page A1, May 6): There are many reasonable explanations for the fact that some cops rack up large tallies of overtime compensation. Police organizations are in a never-ending battle in times of shrinking budgets to make do with less. Quite often, positions go unfilled through attrition; minimum staffing then requires overtime. This saves a lot of money, as the department saves on benefits (more than 30 percent of a police officer’s total compensation). There are abuses — you better believe it — and Police Commissioner Edward Davis has made laudable efforts to control them, changing the entrenched departmental culture and achieving some measure of success.

I spent 23 years in policing before I retired. I now teach criminal justice at Bridgewater State College. There, despite my doctorate and reputation as an expert in police culture, I earn a salary that is roughly 50 percent of the salary I received as a police lieutenant in New York. But I don’t begrudge public safety professionals their higher wage scale — they deserve every penny.

The public sentiment is that civil servants don’t merit their salaries. Your coverage of issues of greed and misconduct in the realm of public safety agencies is necessary and mostly good journalism. But this focus on individual overtime seems like a mean-spirited attack. In the best of times, public safety professionals do not receive just compensation for their service, dedication, and personal sacrifice. The other side of the coin is that civil service employees do enjoy some degree of protection when times are not so prosperous. So please, get over it.

Mitch L. Librett Duxbury

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