Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling promised members of the Chicago City Council that he would get a handle on employee overtime, which has already cost Chicago taxpayers $200 million in 2023.
After spending $126.5 million on overtime for members of the Chicago Police Department during the first six months of 2023, the department remains on track to end the year with a total police overtime bill of more than $250 million. The City Council only budgeted $100 million for police overtime in 2023.
Even though the Police Department has exceeded its overtime budget in each of the past five years, the City Council is once again poised to set aside just $100 million to cover the department’s overtime bill in the 2024 budget.
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward) asked Snelling whether CPD was “doomed” to spend more than $100 million on overtime in 2024. In response, the new superintendent said there was a “great possibility” CPD would spend more than that because of the unexpected public safety challenges officers are certain to be called to confront.
“However, what I will tell is this, we’re going to be a lot more fiscally responsible with this coming budget,” said Snelling, who has already ended the practice of routinely canceling officers’ regular days off and pledged to “assess” what the city is getting for those dollars.
Snelling vowed to ensure taxpayers are getting “the best bang for the buck” and that overtime is spent to reduce crime.
Each district commander will get a budget for overtime, and will be held accountable for excessive spending, Snelling said.
The city’s police overtime bill could also be swollen by the Democratic National Convention in August, even with a $50 million federal grant to cover security for the event expected to formally make President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris their party’s nominees in the 2024 presidential election.
CPD officials have said their operations have not only been strained by a nationwide staffing crunch but also by the need to police major events and large gatherings throughout Chicago, including the NASCAR Chicago Street Race and the Air and Water Show.
CPD spent $210.5 million on police overtime in 2022, 56% more than in 2021, according to data obtained by WTTW news.
Inspector General Deborah Witzburg said the city’s massive police overtime bill during the first six months of 2023 coupled with several years of double-digit increases in overtime spending indicates a “deep problem” with how CPD is managed and how the city’s public safety resources are allocated.
Chicago’s watchdog has been warning for more than six years that the money spent to pay officers overtime was “wasted” and fueled burnout, making misconduct and abuse more likely, first in an audit released in 2017 and then in a follow-up audit released in February 2020.
That audit included a recommendation that Police Department leadership should “limit the total hours officers work, including secondary employment, in order to ensure officers are well-rested and ready to effectively serve the public.” That policy has not been implemented.