5 Ways to Reduce Overtime

Overtime in your police department isn’t going away anytime soon…

Just as a conservative example, Springfield Police Department spent $3.7 million on overtime over the past 5 years, according to fiscal statements released by the city’s finance department.­­

There are ways to minimize your department’s overtime and it starts from the upper ranks and works its way down to the way you record and analyze your data. We have seen police departments reduce overtime costs by over 30% using the following five strategies:

  1. Tighten the Budget
  2. Create Accountability
  3. Record & Analyze
  4. Use an Automated System
  5. Integrate Extra Duty/Special Events and Day-to-Day Scheduling

1. Tighten the Budget

We need to change the attitude towards overtime away from the generally accepted “It’s just the cost of doing business.” In order to do this, departments need to run a tight budget and make it clear that overruns will not be appropriated from any other source.

When this message is made clear, supervisors are forced to find ways to reduce overtime and exercise better scheduling foresight. This attitude towards overtime starts from the top of the department and trickles down into every facet of how operations are managed.

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Set a threshold for allowable overtime and have a system in place that notifies you when an officer is going above that threshold. For example, overtime pay can only be 8% of officer’s base salary.

2. Create Accountability

The message above is idealistic, but if no one is held accountable for overtime allocation, then it will inevitably fall apart. The first step is to ask your managers and supervisors the critical question, “Is overtime being abused?” If the answer is yes or can’t be answered, a process needs to be setup:

  1. Set levels of approval for allocating overtime
  2. Audit the process
  3. Use a system that allows you to see where OT is being allocated and who is approving it

Only 38% of police departments in the US are able to account for the number of overtime hours worked annually…

3. Record & Analyze

According to a survey made by the National Institute of Justice, only 38% of police departments in the US are able to account for the number of overtime hours worked annually. This number is astounding if you think about it. Imagine being the CEO of a company and not knowing your annual profit and loss statement!

In order to properly manage your budget, there needs to be a system in place for collecting and reporting data. How else will you be able to know which type of activities and/or units within your department are contributing to overtime? An example of how this information can be useful is if you see lots of OT being used by a specific unit on an annual basis, it could be an indication that you need to hire more officers.


Or, it could be a supervision issue, where some supervisors are allowing employees to extend their shift to write reports on overtime, while others have the reports held until the employee’s next shift. The point is that reporting can help you identify issues and allow you to take appropriate action.

It’s also worth mentioning that spreadsheets are NOT ideal. They are great for organizing your personal expenses during tax season, but they should not be used for scheduling your department for several reasons:

  • Information is not easily shared between supervisors
  • There is no accountability for changes in the schedule
  • It requires slow manual processes that are prone to human error, such as collecting paper slips
  • Emailing and following up with employees regarding shift changes and postings can be a full time job

 4. Use an Automated System

The alternative to scheduling with spreadsheets is automation. Find a system that does the work for you and is able to generate reports that will help save your department money. Automation not only saves you time, but it helps to navigate around the pitfalls of spreadsheet scheduling mentioned above. Great automation software can help your department reduce overtime by:

  • Identifying what activities are contributing to OT and allow you to take appropriate action
  • Find you employees that can work a shift with the least amount of OT and ensure equitable allocation of shifts
  • Automatically alert you when you schedule an employee into OT
  • Maintain accountability for overtime allocation
  • Give you a “birds-eye-view” of the schedule and allow you to easily spot areas of the schedule that may be contributing to overtime.

Reduce Overtime Costs by up to 50% with InTime

5. Integrate Extra Duty/Special Events and Day-to-Day Scheduling

This seems like a no brainer, but so many departments maintain separate schedules for their secondary duty. Not only is this a logistical nightmare, but what if a catastrophic event such as a terrorist attack, standoff or earthquake were to occur? How do you know where your officers are at all times?

Integrating extra duty and day-to-day scheduling is a must! It provides you with accountability over all your staff and allows you to see a better overall picture of scheduling and overtime.

A study conducted by the University of Wyoming and PolicyLab found that some officers were averaging over 100 hours per week. There doesn’t need to be much explanation on why this is a problem; employee fatigue can seriously compromise an officer’s ability to perform their job and provide safety to the citizens they are sworn to protect.

Integrating extra duty and day-to-day scheduling helps you to monitor employee fatigue and how much overtime any given employee is averaging.

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