Several years ago, the cost of police overtime was a significant issue at the Guelph Police Services Board.
The Chief of the day conducted a thorough internal review and reported to the Board on overtime use by the service. To this day, the Board still receives regular reports on overtime. Shining a light on its use led to a significant reduction in overtime – reductions that have been sustained over time.
In the process, the Board also developed a better understanding of why overtime is used, when its use is largely out of the service’s control and when it can and should be carefully managed.
- Overtime is required when there is an investigation of a major crime – such investigations require significant and timely resources.
- Overtime is required under certain circumstances to ensure provincially-legislated standards are met for the adequacy and effectiveness of policing – such standards ensure community and officer safety.
Even in circumstances when overtime is required, different deployment strategies can work to mitigate its use. A good example is the additional resources required to manage the influx of university students in September. The recent implementation of Project Safe Semester has halved overtime while increasing enforcement and reducing public complaints.
In a similar way, members of City Council have expressed a concern and interest in better understanding overtime use at City Hall and ensuring we have sufficient internal controls in place to manage its use appropriately.
Our overtime costs are higher than other municipalities. Why?
Our Internal Auditor picked up on our concern and added a comprehensive audit of overtime use to her annual work plan. That audit is coming forward to the Audit Committee in a couple of months with management’s response to her findings and recommendations.
Given my experience on the Guelph Police Services Board, I anticipate a mix of findings. Overtime is often required. A good example was the response to the two windstorms this year which required significant resources to address safety hazards from downed trees and limbs. Like the Police Service, we have many legislated service standards that under certain circumstances require additional resources to meet. And I expect we will see recommendations to enhance existing management practices to control or eliminate some of the uses of overtime.
Once again, I believe the value of adding the new role of Internal Audit – reporting functionally to Council’s Audit Committee – will demonstrate its value to Council and the community.