The Philadelphia Police Department spent nearly $18 million in overtime as people flooded the city’s streets in the last month to protest police brutality and racism, and to advocate slashing the department’s budget.
Overtime expenditures from May 30 through June 21 were more than triple the average monthly cost of $5.8 million set over the last five years, according to data from the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA).
At the same time, Philadelphia is grappling with the economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a $749 million budget shortfall. More than 450 city employees are losing their jobs. Some taxes are increasing. And while other department budgets and services have been cut, the Police Department’s funding has remained flat.
Harvey Rice, director of PICA, said overtime is a concern for members of the state board that oversees city finances.
“Before this occurred, we were hoping to see the police have less overtime cost this year, but obviously that’s not going to happen,” Rice said. Across departments, Rice said, overtime spending “is money that could be used for needed city services.”
Police departments across the country are paying millions in overtime for officers to monitor the massive protests that erupted following the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The Los Angeles Police Department has spent more than $40 million in overtime, the Houston Police Department has spent more than $21 million, and the Portland (Ore.) Police Department has spent $6.2 million.
The Philadelphia Police Department provided the recent overtime data to The Inquirer, saying it was “preliminary overtime costs for civil unrest.” It’s unclear on which days during the widespread protests the police had the most staffing or amassed the most hours. An Inquirer report revealed police initially tried to get through the protests with minimal staffing.
The only months with more overtime than the $17.7 million during the protests were in September 2015, which overlapped with Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Philadelphia, and August 2016, which included pay periods for the 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, Rice said. Overtime costs then were $20.9 million and $18.3 million respectively, PICA data show. However, Rice said, those visits included substantial reimbursements, meaning the actual costs to the city would be less. The city said it was working with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency on potential reimbursement related to protests, but it is unclear whether the city will receive those funds.
Philadelphia has the nation’s fourth-largest police department, with more than 6,500 officers and $741 million this fiscal year. The department’s budget is 15% of the city’s $5 billion operating budget.
Philadelphia officers rack up significant amounts of overtime each year, especially when appearing in court for criminal trials. The Police Department is regularly allotted an overtime budget, and for this fiscal year it amounted to more than $67.6 million.
Calls to reduce funding to the department have intensified as Philadelphia police and departments across the country have been scrutinized for using force against protesters, including rubber bullets and tear gas.
The protesters have been calling for a variety of changes, from eliminating policing to disbanding current departments to create new ones. This has pressured local governments to reexamine their funding allocations.
In Philadelphia last week, hundreds of protesters marched on Broad Street while others staged a sit-in at the Municipal Services Building, all calling for defunding the Police Department. Two days later, City Council adopted its budget for the next fiscal year, which included removing a planned $19 million budget increase for the Police Department.
Critics have said this is not enough. More demonstrations are scheduled this week.