50 new police officers will mean less OT for current cops

A police officer searches for a gunman near the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Police say a deadly shooting occurred near the school campus on Monday. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

(KUTV) An additional 50 officers will cost taxpayers approximately $3 million a year. But ironically, adding more officers could actually make up some of that debt.

A Get Gephardt investigation finds that police officers in Salt Lake City are taking home more and more overtime.

  • In 2015, cops made $1,154,458 in O.T.
  • In 2016, it jumped up to $1,621,099.66.
  • 2017 is on pace to usurp that, likely costing taxpayers close to $2 million.

Obviously, more cops would mean less forced overtime, but therein perhaps lies a larger problem, says SLCPD Det. Robert Ungricht. Part of the reason cops are working so much OT is because the department is already having trouble filling current staff shortages.

“We have found it harder to get people to put in for this job,” he said.

Ungricht says a combination of a negative national attention on cops and the Utah legislature slashing retirement benefits for officers has made it tough to attract qualified candidates.

"There are people who do this job because they love it, including me, but then the thing your really have to take into consideration is, is it really worth it, pay wise, to do this job,” he says.

Still, if they are able to find the staff, the department would gladly take it.

“We'll take as many as we can get,” he said. “If we could get 100, we'd take 100 officers."

The Salt Lake City council will be holding public hearings about how they are going to pay for the proposed surge in officers. Getting people hired and thus cutting some overtime could lessen the burden, but they city will still need to make up millions of dollars to pay for the new staff. That will likely mean tax hikes, said Council Chair Stan Penfold.

"My Council colleagues and I believe that City residents and taxpayers will embrace this action and be willing to increase their taxes, if necessary, to improve public safety," Penfold said.

If the 50-officer increase is approved, the Council will begin exploring options for increasing revenue to ensure the long-term sustainability of a greater police presence, a press release from the city council said.

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