Police inefficiencies cost $35 million, study says The Pa. Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority found Phila. has more staff and OT than peer cities.

Posted: March 10, 2004

Inefficiencies in the Philadelphia Police Department cost taxpayers an extra $35 million a year, according to a study released yesterday by the state agency that oversees city finances.

The report, by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, comes less than two weeks before Mayor Street is to deliver his annual budget proposal. Street has said public safety would not face the across-the-board cuts required of other departments to tackle a yawning budget deficit. The Police Department's annual budget exceeds $400 million for fiscal 2004.

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED MARCH 11, 2004, FOLLOWS: A story in yesterday's Inquirer misstated a statistic featured in a report by the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority on the Philadelphia police budget. The report stated that Philadelphia averaged $7,393 in overtime expenditures per officer, above the national average of $4,677.

Using statistics from the 10 largest American cities, the study slammed Philadelphia for having too many officers per resident, too few of them on the street, and the largest number of overtime hours per officer of the cities surveyed.

In fiscal 2002, Philadelphia had 44.59 officers per 10,000 residents, above the average of 31.71 for the 10 largest cities. And Philadelphia averaged 7,393 hours of overtime per uniformed officer, above the average of 4,677.

"Philadelphia is the only city that manages to combine higher-than-average overtime costs with a higher-than-average number of police officers per resident," the report noted.

It also criticized poor management and work rules that require uniformed officers to perform jobs that could be done by civilians.

"The result is a bloated police force with higher expenditures than other peer cities, but no correlating increase in crime prevention," the report said.

Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said he had not read the entire report. "I will look at this report, I will evaluate it, and when I do, then I will make a comment," he said.

Johnson added that he had engaged in significant restructuring of the department over the past year, eliminating excess senior management positions. "We've been fiscally responsible," he said.

Philadelphia Managing Director Philip Goldsmith, who termed the study "harsh," said the administration was already studying ways to improve staff allocation.

Goldsmith laid much of the blame for overtime excesses on poor coordination between police and the District Attorney's Office over officers' court appearances, a factor also cited in the PICA report. And he said work rules were something that could only be addressed in talks on a new police union contract this summer.

Goldsmith declined to say whether the administration would seek such a change during the negotiations.

Among the rules singled out in the study are requirements that any personnel posting temporary "no parking" signs on Philadelphia streets be uniformed police officers. It said officials in other cities found Philadelphia's rules "amusing."

Fraternal Order of Police president Robert Eddis said the rules made sense.

"I sure would like to know that at least the person who's putting no-parking signs on the street is doing it for a police-approved function," he said.

In an interview, Joseph C. Vignola, PICA executive director, said addressing the police budget was crucial to the city's long-term health.

"If you hold the public safety departments outside the budget reductions, you're not going to be able to achieve a structurally balanced budget," he said.

Vignola noted that the last year for which comparative statistics were available for the largest cities was fiscal 2002 - before the full impact of Street's signature Safe Streets initiative. Since then, Philadelphia's overtime costs have risen significantly.

Vignola said that while changes in management structure and work rules were not possible without a new labor contract, changes in overtime and the percentage of officers on the street could be implemented immediately.

"The taxpayers are footing the bill," he said, "and they should be getting the best possible service at the best possible cost."

Contact staff writer Michael Currie Schaffer at 215-854-4565 or mcschaffer@phillynews.com.

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