Fired for alleged OT theft, Philly detective will get fat pension anyway

Posted: June 19, 2012

KENNETH ROSSITER has gotten his walking papers. The longtime homicide detective was one of the city's busiest — and one of its highest-paid, bringing home more than $90,000 a year in overtime alone — until police brass on Monday suspended him with intent to dismiss for allegedly scamming overtime last year.

But he won't need to rush to get a new job right away: He'll soon be collecting a $4,606 monthly city pension. Public employees fired for wrongdoing are entitled to collect their full pensions, as long as they haven't been convicted of a crime, said Francis X. Bielli, executive director of the city's pensions department. The District Attorney's Office declined to press charges.

Few details of Rossiter's alleged swindle are known. Internal-affairs investigators won't release their findings, saying the anonymous complaint that led to their probe is presumed to have originated internally. But sources say — and police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey has confirmed — that investigators sustained an allegation that Rossiter racked up overtime at least nine times by checking into court, going home to relax and then returning to court at the end of the day to check back out. After the Daily News asked Ramsey about it Thursday, the commissioner on Friday decided to suspend and dismiss him. Rossiter, 51, a 30-year police veteran, on Sunday denied any fraud and vowed to fight his dismissal.

D.A. spokeswoman Tasha Jamerson declined Monday to say why her office didn't charge Rossiter. "We do not talk about why charges are not filed in any case," Jamerson said.

As to why prosecutors called Rossiter to court — and then failed to notice that he'd checked in but had not appeared in court — Jamerson said: "In the midst of a homicide trial, occasionally a detective will not come to court because he is doing other duties related to the case; for example, trying to locate and subpoena necessary witnesses. ... Also, detectives often have multiple court notices, and can be in other courtrooms testifying or doing work for [assistant district attorneys] in other cases."

Although Rossiter's overtime bounty might seem high, it's in line with what many of his colleagues make in a unit where the pressure is high to put in long hours to catch this murder-plagued city's killers. Altogether, the homicide unit's 73 detectives hauled in nearly $4.7 million last year in overtime alone, averaging a little more than $64,000 each.

Homicide detectives' base pay ranges from $67,954 to $69,521. But more than one-third bring home overtime higher than their base pay; all but four make enough overtime to boost their gross pay to more than $100,000 a year.

Some folks would say they more than earn it.

"Homicide isn't like any other police unit. The first 24, 48 hours during a murder investigation, they're running to make sure they get these guys off the street," said Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby. "That time is crucial to get the best leads. Once the homicide is solved, then they have to sit through a couple-week trial. That's why overtime is high."

But reducing overtime has been a priority for Ramsey, who created an overtime-management unit in 2009 to rein in sky-high overtime spending. Although that unit has had success, cutting $17 million in the last three years, overtime has crept up in the homicide unit, from $3.9 million in 2009 to nearly $4.7 million last year. Homicides, meanwhile, have risen slightly, from 302 in 2009 to 324 last year.

On Monday, Ramsey said he has no problem with high overtime — if it's earned.

"When homicide investigators get on the scene, they put in some long hours," Ramsey said. "The hours, in and of themselves, are not the issue. The whole issue with overtime is whether it's legitimately earned."

Contact Dana DiFilippo at 215-854-5934, difilid@phillynews.com or on Twitter @DanaDiFilippo. Read her blog at phillyconfidential.com.

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