LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Metro Police Officer Todd Roadhouse worked more than 200 hours during the first two weeks of January, including back-to-back 17-hour days.
He followed that with a 21-hour day, according to his time slips. In all, his workload during that time yielded about 120 hours of overtime.
And this was not that unusual for Roadhouse, who has made more than $45,000 in overtime through October, boosting his total pay to $102,000 for the year. Had he worked normal 40-hour weeks, Roadhouse would have earned a salary of about $57,000 in 2017.
He is one of several police officers who racked up enormous amounts of overtime hours in the weeks after the city gave police $1.2 million last December to boost patrols in an effort to reduce violent crime. But the extra manpower appears not to have worked. In fact, data shows such crimes actually increased during that time.
A WDRB News investigation found officers worked weeks or months without taking a day off -- including weekends -- logging what experts say would be either suspicious or dangerously long hours. Yet the department has no internal policies meant to force officers to rest or avoid marathon shifts.
In those first two weeks of the year, Officer Billy Keltner worked 196 hours – 116 hours of overtime – including a 19-hour day and two 17-hour days. And he did not take a day off in January, including weekends.
“That is just shocking,” said Metro Council member David James, a former police officer. “That is poor supervision. That is poor oversight throughout the chain of command. I don’t understand how that could happen.”
“It also tells me the tax dollars we entrusted to the chief to oversee in order to protect our citizens were not spent effectively and efficiently and quite frankly put a lot of people in danger,” said James, a Democrat who represents Old Louisville “I would be interested to see how the chief explains that.”
Louisville Metro Police spokesman Sgt. John Bradley agreed last Thursday to an interview with WDRB News but then did not return repeated phone messages or emails.
The department acknowledged in an internal email from January that officers had blown through more than half of the allotted overtime money in the first 6 weeks.
“If we keep spending at the same rate, we will run out by the end of March!” Conrad told his command staff in a Jan. 27 email obtained by WDRB.
The money was supposed to last through this fiscal year, which ended June 30. WDRB reporters looked at the top seven officers who made the most overtime this year and found they accumulated $320,000 in overtime through October.
In addition to the LMPD overtime, three of the five officers that made the most overtime money – Roadhouse and Officers Mark Final and Dennis Poteet – worked secondary jobs at the same time.
Final worked every day in February, including weekends, averaging about 12 hours a day, for the police department while also working a secondary job providing security at Male High School, according to records.
Roadhouse’s time slips, obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act, show he worked 84 consecutive days from January 1 to March 25, logging, on average, about 12 hours a day.
LMPD has no rules governing mandatory time off, but independent police experts say the practice is questionable at best.
“That’s a red flag they are putting down so many hours,” said Thomas Barker, a long-time professor of criminal justice at Eastern Kentucky University and a former Birmingham, Ala., police officer. “Seems like it was a boondoggle to pay officers extra money.”
Barker said if the officers worked that many hours, it would be dangerous, and it should have caught the attention of someone in the department.
“You can’t work a 21-hour day and be a functioning person,” he said. “I don’t believe it. I flat do not believe that. This is an obvious padding of work hours to receive extra compensation. If I was a city council member, I would ask for an audit.”
The council is expected to ask Conrad about the issue at a hearing in early December.
Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet, a Republican who is running for mayor in 2018, said the police department has “an issue with transparency” and the overtime issue is another example of poor leadership.
“What we have asked for, what we would like to see is new leadership, a new police chief.”
Extra pay nets few arrests
Last December, Conrad told Metro Council members that the overtime initiative would be successful if it leads to a drop in violent crime.
By that measuring stick, it didn’t work.
Violent crime rose 8.9 percent in January when compared with the same period in 2016, according to LMPD statistics. In February, violent crime climbed by more than 30 percent from the previous year, including a 54 percent rise in homicides.
“We found out within 6 or 7 weeks that nothing had changed,” Leet said in an interview last week.
Despite working more, the officers that took home the largest amounts of overtime made very few major arrests during the first three months of the year, according to a review of court records.
By mid-February, overtime began dropping dramatically after Conrad learned that more than half of the money provided by the city to last to July had already been spent. The department spent nearly $800,000 of the $1.2 million in funding by the end of February.
“My understanding was there was very little control on (the overtime),” James said in an interview.
In a March Public Safety Committee hearing, Council member Jessica Green told Conrad it appeared as if “we took a lot of money and a lot of hours and threw them up in the air” without any planning or oversight.
Leet asked Conrad if the department had a plan when it was given the overtime funding.
Conrad said that while there was no written plan, officers worked in high-crime neighborhoods – including Russell, Shawnee and California -- from noon until 3 a.m., seven days a week from December through Jan. 27, when the chief sent the email about the department burning through the overtime.
The number of hours police were working was “not sustainable from a fiscal point of view to a personnel point of view because it would just work officers down to the bone,” Conrad told council members. He pledged to be “smarter about where and when we are putting people in those areas.”
James said it appears that officers “supervised themselves basically” which “led to officers having the opportunity to abuse the overtime and waste quite a few dollars.”
Pay records show that some officers made up to five times as much in extra pay than they did in previous years. Specifically:
- Officer Roadhouse went from making $7,800 in overtime in 2013 to $29,600 last year and more than $45,000 so far in 2017.
- Officer Keltner jumped from making about $6,000 in overtime in both 2014 and 2015 to more than $40,000 in each of the past two years.
- Officer Michael Pawul made less than $7,000 in overtime in 2013 and more than $50,000 so far this year.
- And Sgt. Brian Stanfield jumped from $20,000 in overtime in 2014 to more than $48,000 in 2017.
None of the officers returned a request for comment left through an LMPD spokesperson.
The department did not respond to questions asking if any of the officers were under investigation.
Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer, declined to talk specifically about the amounts of overtime used by some officers, deferring to Conrad.
But he said, Conrad “needed tools to fight crime and OT is one way, one method to do that. I will leave it to him to walk you through the details of it.”
Conrad acknowledged during a March 1 meeting with council members that he did not see the crime drop he had hoped for when the council gave LMPD the funding, saying the surge was not “completely effective.”
However, he declined to call the funding an outright waste of money.
“I’m not going to call it a failure,” he said at the time, “because we have seen some good things come out of this.”
- LMPD says overtime patrols in 'hotspot' neighborhoods are reducing violent crime
- LMPD targets high-crime areas for overtime patrols
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