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The overtime game

A successful lawsuit shows how Boston’s homicide detectives have gamed the system to line their own pockets
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  May 4, 2006

Cops eyeing a big payday creatively cook their overtime hours
Last year, the BPD’s homicide department spent more than $1 million on overtime — and left three-quarters of the city’s murders unsolved.

The problems Haunting the Boston Police Department’s (BPD) homicide unit — low arrest rates, cases rejected by juries, and exonerations of wrongfully convicted men — did not occur in a vacuum. They were nurtured by neglect and grew because the top command in the department provided little or no oversight of the supposedly elite unit, particularly during commissioner Paul Evans’s long tenure, which ended in late 2003.

The BPD’s apparent reluctance to hold the homicide unit accountable was exposed in federal court last month, when a jury found that Evans wrongly fired police captain William Broderick in retaliation for, among other things, blowing the whistle on an overtime scam — which Broderick called “an open ATM machine” for homicide detectives.

Overtime-abuse scandals have long dogged the department, and continue to do so under Evans’s successor, Kathleen O’Toole, who began actively tracking overtime hours last September. A year earlier, O’Toole had hired a budget chief to eliminate, in her own words, “overcharges and abuses.” That came on the heels of a Boston Globe report finding numerous instances of officers apparently getting paid overtime for details they didn’t actually work — in some cases, getting paid for two details in separate places at the same time — and after Commissioner O’Toole removed her own appointee, District B3 captain John Kervin, reportedly for funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime to himself and his staff.

But back in 2001, when Broderick alerted top department officials — including Evans — to apparent overtime abuses by homicide and drug-control detectives, they did little or nothing to determine if fraud had taken place, as their own testimony makes clear. Broderick testified that one superintendent’s response was, “Is there any way that we can keep it under the radar?” Nobody was disciplined, other than Broderick.

According to Broderick, who served as the court supervisor in 2001 and 2002, detectives in the homicide and drug-control units racked up hours of overtime for appearances at Suffolk Superior Court — appearances that were at best unverified, at worst fraudulent. Documents in the court case, including copies of overtime cards, appear to back up those allegations.

So did the BPD’s own internal review, spurred by Broderick’s allegations, which found that during a six-month period, homicide and drug-control officers had submitted more than 200 overtime slips signed by someone other than the proper supervisor to certify the start and end times of their court appearances. For more than 80 percent of those, the officer had never signed in on the courthouse log sheet, which every officer is supposed to do upon entering the courthouse.

Once Broderick started demanding evidence that the detectives were actually in court for legitimate purposes, it seemed that much of the need for these court appearances vanished. The homicide detectives’ court-overtime earnings plunged by about half within two years, from $175,000 in 2000, to $116,000 in 2001, to $88,000 in 2002. By last year, that figure was less than $42,000, despite the high murder count and a special Superior Court session for homicide trials.

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  Topics: News Features , Boston, Paul Joyce, Robert Harrington,  More more >
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