A lack of police promotions has actually increased work demands and overtime pay for Lt. Robert Dikun, Chief Kevin O'Hara told the Point Beach Mayor and Council on Tuesday night.
Dikun and O'Hara are the only two administrative officers in the 21-member department, due to police retirements and no promotions to fill those positions, O'Hara said.
Consequently, Dikun has had a heavy workload since there are numerous tasks that have to be done by an administrative officer, which means a lieutenant or higher, O'Hara said at the meeting.
"Lt. Dikun has been doing a phenomenal job, an excellent job, for 23 years, he's done what he was asked to do," O'Hara said.
The discussion was prompted by Marilyn Burke, a resident on Central Avenue, who asked who authorizes police overtime and was told O'Hara does.
"Why did the chief give Lt. Dikun so much overtime?" Burke asked.
O'Hara said part of the reason is that Dikun's administrative duties involve many that Ocean County, civil service regulations or the state mandate be done by an administrative officer.
"We used to have four administrative officers," O'Hara said.
He said Chief Daniel DePaola retired on April 1, 2010 and Lt. Harry DiCorcia retired on Aug. 1, 2010 and were not replaced.
O'Hara had served as a captain before being promoted. When he became chief, the position of captain was not filled.
"I've been asking council for the past 18 months for promotions, but it never happened and the work still had to be done," O'Hara said.
More recently, Sgt. Richard Otto retired this past December and it has not yet been determined whether he will be replaced.
"The three vacancies cut $400,000 from the police payroll, so paying $70,000 in overtime has us ahead of the game," O'Hara said.
O'Hara has also said council has been receiving police payroll reports regularly and that he had advised them about increasing overtime costs in a number of emails.
O'Hara broadened the discussion to address the overall issue of police overtime, which was $252,575 last year.
He said that has been increased partly because the former Point Beach Council cut a full-time dispatcher position in January 2010, which cost the department $20,000 in overtime.
The position has sometimes been filled with police officers who would have been better used out on patrol, O'Hara said. O'Hara said he can use specials as dispatchers during the summer, but has to use regular officers during the off-season.
There are currently three full-time dispatchers.
Another source of overtime, noted Mayor Vincent Barrella, is the $20,000 spent on police overtime last year because officers had to work long days in Municipal Court in Point Borough's Borough Hall on Bridge Avenue during municipal court sessions.
A shared services agreement entered into by a majority of the previous council and Point Borough moved the Point Beach municipal court location to the Borough.
"That was done without consulting our police department," Barrella noted. And it required that the Point Beach department send officers to the Borough because the Point Beach special police officers do not have jurisdiction in the Borough, Barrella said.
The Point Beach Council passed a measure Tuesday night to attempt to get the Borough to agree to let the Beach have its court location back in the Borough Hall in Point Beach.
Another source of overtime was Hurricane Irene, which cost the department about $25,000 in overtime, which will ultimately be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), O'Hara said.
"I didn't have enough specials on staff when the community wanted more patrols, so I had to use regular cops on overtime because specials were maxed out on hours," O'Hara said.
If you subtract the overtime prompted by the hurricane, the busier summer, the loss of a dispatcher and the court staffing, the overtime for the department would be less than $100,000, which is comparable to the past four years, said O'Hara, showing copies of his records, after the meeting.
In response to another question from Burke, O'Hara said Dikun is an instructor at the Ocean County Police Academy, which is time paid by Point Beach as part of his regular duties and not through overtime pay.
"Rght now, 40 of the 50 trainees at the academy are training to work as specials in Point Beach," O'Hara said.
He said it's beneficial for Point Beach to have Dikun teaching at the academy because of his dual background as a lawyer and as a police official.
"There are no lawsuits against officers in Point Beach," O'Hara said after the meeting. "You get what you pay for. We're very heavy into training because that's how you make sure mistakes don't happen."
Council members did not make any critical comments about police overtime at the meeting. To the contrary, Councilman Bret Gordon complimented the chief on how he has explained the reasons for overtime to the public and on the job the department has been doing.
Councilman Stephen Reid complimented the chief and the department a few times on filing speeding violations against speeding drivers on River Avenue. Reid said the residents greatly appreciate the stepped-up enforcement in what many of them describe as a road where cars constantly speed.
Reid is also working on a plan to have a sign posting speeds of cars driving on River Avenue to help supplement police enforcement.
After the meeting, O'Hara said he is optimistic that this year's council will ultimately authorize one or two promotions for the police department, so that administrative and supervisory duties can be spread out among several officials and overtime can be reduced.
"This council has made some good, positive moves in the right direction and I'm optimistic," he said.