January 25, 2020
Miami Police audit: One officer worked 3,714 hours at off-duty jobs in one year
By Charles Rabin
In 2018 alone, Miami cops working side jobs made $18.9 million atop their city salaries. And dozens of police officers, over a four-year period, worked what amounted to full-time job while off the clock.
One officer even managed to put in for 3,714 hours of extra duty in a single year. Coupled with his city job, that breaks down to the officer working an average of almost 18 hours a day. For 365 straight days.
Those findings by Miami’s Independent Auditor General Theodore Guba highlighted a report released on Tuesday that found an extra-duty pay system rife with abuse from lack of oversight, with some officers even collecting extra-duty pay during regular working hours. It also found city that the current system shorted city coffers tens of thousands of dollars in uncollected fees because of rules that permit private employers to pay officers in cash or by check — creating a virtual honor system with inadequate records for the city to check.
The audit also questioned whether so much off-duty work would compromise performance, leaving officers too fatigued to make the lightening quick decisions often required of law enforcement.
“We have concluded that internal controls were inadequate to ensure that extra duty employment hours scheduled and worked were accurately recorded by both, the city and the third-party employer,” Guba wrote in his 20-page report, which did not name individual officers.
Later in the report, Guba added: “There is a risk that a conflict of interest may arise if MPD personnel work excessive hours for an outside employer, creating perceived or actual loyalty to the employer ahead of loyalty to MPD. Additionally, working excessive extra duty hours may lead to diminished on-duty performance due to fatigue.”
Other findings in the report: Miami police officers reported working off-duty jobs that overlapped with regular police work hours 183 times over a four-year period between 2015 and 2018. And acording to the audit, those with permanent off-duty jobs, which make up more than half the assignments, were paid directly by the employer either by check or in cash and there was no documentation to support the number of hours actually worked.
Responding to the findings, police brass said they will hire an independent third-party to oversee off-duty work for police officers. The city expects to bid the job out later this year.
“The audit is correct. We do need to outsource it to a company that will do the work for us,” said Miami Deputy Police Chief Ron Papier. “The current process is paid directly by the company. Some of the companies pay cash. We do not know if the people go beyond the 16 hours a day or 36 hours in a week. We need accountability.”
In all, Miami police officers earned more than $70 million working off-duty jobs between 2015 and 2018 in a practice that also benefits the city. That’s because an administrative fee of $4.50 an hour per officer per location for permanent off-duty jobs goes directly to city coffers. City records show that between 2015 and 2018 Miami collected $6.4 million in administrative fees.
Yet, despite pay for permanent off-duty jobs working essentially as an honor system, the audit found that only about $103,000 in fees were past due.
Under city rules, a police officer is not permitted to work an outside job during regular working hours, can’t work more than 16 hours a day of regular and off-duty work combined and can’t work more than 36 hours a week at an off-duty job.
Overall, the audit found that there is not enough communication between extra duty and on-duty scheduling systems; that there is overlapping because much of the payments are not made through city payroll; that excessive extra duty hours could result in conflicts of interest and diminished on-duty performance; and that administrative surcharges are still owed to the city.
“We have concluded that internal controls were inadequate to ensure that extra duty employment hours scheduled and worked were accurately recorded by both, the city and the third-party employer,” Guba wrote in his report.
Guba said to reduce potential abuse, the city needs to outsource its off-duty work program to an outside third-party.
The findings are largely in-line with a report by the city’s Civilian Investigative Panel completed late last year which found the root of extra-duty work problems was a lack of oversight. The report found that essentially any officer could become a “job coordinator,” who then was able to himself or assign off-duty jobs to friends and colleagues.
In many cases, the report found, that job coordinators who aren’t supposed to oversee more than two jobs at any one time, were coordinating up to a dozen. It also noted that it wasn’t clear if the city was receiving its fair share of fees since private entities were paying off-duty workers by cash or check.
“I couldn’t even say what percentage is cash because all transactions are done privately. The city of Miami is not participating in any part of the action except for the surcharge,” said CIP Investigator Richard Rivera, who created the report. “In theory, even if you approach me at a Starbuck’s, I’m supposed to turn it in. Cash presents the opportunity to bypass the system.”
Take the case of Miami Police Capt. Javier Ortiz, who for several years has had a permanent off-duty detail at the University of Miami. A CIP investigator recently determined that Ortiz had worked more off-duty hours than permitted, in one instance working 27 hours in a day.
But because Ortiz was paid privately, there was no record of his off-duty hours in the city’s payroll. So when Ortiz showed up at a CIP hearing saying his paycheck didn’t mirror the investigator’s findings, it threw the meeting into a tailspin. Eventually the CIP decided to pass its findings along to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for a possible criminal probe, one that Ortiz welcomed.
Most city leaders contacted Tuesday said they hadn’t seen the report and chose not to comment. Miami Commissioner Ken Russell said he supports police working extra hours, but admitted the current system needs oversight.
The results of this audit clearly demonstrate that the current system needs improvement,” said Russell. “I’ve spoken with the police chief and look forward to his recommendations, including the potential for third party management of the off-duty program.”