Overtime Cops May Suffer From Fatigue

Dallas police say use of overtime is not excessive

Some Dallas officers double their base salary with overtime. Experts say so many hours of work can cause fatigue that may compromise the safety of officers and the public.  

But Dallas officials said DPD policy and supervisors guard against fatigue.

"We want our officers to be alert, on target and on their game when they're working," said Lt. Andy Harvey, a police spokesman. 

Payroll records obtained from the city for the 10 officers with the highest overtime show three officers who appeared on the same list three years ago. 

Two of those officers work on the DWI squad, which patrols long hours looking for drunken drivers and then spends substantial time in court with their cases. 

The third officer is a senior corporal who also works at the police academy training officers, according to Dallas Police Association President Glenn White.  Records show the senior corporal earned a total of $132,634 the past year -- on a base salary of $71,273. 

A DWI senior corporal who earned a total of $144,314 in the past year was at the top of the overtime list both times. His base salary is $67,878.

At that base pay, his total salary adds up to an average of 70 hours a week, every week of the year, or 14 hours a day, five days a week.

"That still allows 10 hours for sleep and some down time, so that certainly wouldn't fatigue a lot of people," White said.

But Harvey said it is more hours than he would choose to work on a regular basis.

"Personally, it's excessive for me," he said. "I like to spend my time at home, with my family and doing other things. But there are officers that don't mind it."

Dallas policy allows 84 hours a week and 16 hours a day on a combination of city or outside extra jobs. But that limit does not include court time, which could increase the weekly total even higher.

Several studies suggest tired cops may be more prone to mistakes and fatigue that endangers officers and the public they are assigned to protect. 

Dr. Christopher Landrigan, of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, is conducting research on the issue.

The Dallas limits may be excessive, according to Dr. Landrigan.

"Eighty-four hours or 90 hours or more, as some municipalities will allow, increases the risk that a mistake is going to happen," he said.

In March, a California sheriff's deputy crashed his patrol car into a group of cyclists, killing two.

News reports on the incident said the officer was in the middle of the second of three 12-hours shifts. The officer told witnesses he fell asleep at the wheel. 

"We don't want that to happen here," Harvey said.

Dallas police supervisors are expected to watch for signs of tired officers. And a tight Dallas budget is expected to reduce overtime in the coming year.

But within the total 84-hour weekly Dallas limit, officers will still be permitted to work outside extra jobs where no city supervisors are present.

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