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OPD vacancies can mean tens of thousands of dollars in overtime for officers

Olympia police respond to a protesters at Artesian Commons Park in September over the park’s closure. Protests and other events can add to overtime costs.
Olympia police respond to a protesters at Artesian Commons Park in September over the park’s closure. Protests and other events can add to overtime costs. Steve Bloom

The highest paid employee for the city of Olympia last year was a longtime police sergeant who made nearly $70,000 in overtime and other incentives on top of his $119,000 base pay.

Sgt. Ryan Hirotaka made more than Olympia’s city manager, police chief and fire chief. He is not an outlier: Among the highest paid employees were several police sergeants and officers who made tens of thousands of dollars above their base pay, according to 2018 salary data obtained by The Olympian.

Olympia’s police and fire departments offer incentives for longevity, college degrees, certifications or special assignments. But Deputy Police Chief Aaron Jelcick said most of the extra pay in his department is due to overtime.

The department has minimum staffing requirements for all times of the day but falls short when people are out due to injuries, vacations, trainings or for other reasons.

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“If you’re under that magic number, you’re paying overtime for somebody,” he said. “We have been so short staffed even this first quarter that we’ve had one person show up for a shift.”

The majority of police officers last year made more than $100,000. In one case, an officer earned nearly $55,000 on top of his $98,000 base pay.

The only limit to how much overtime police can do is the requirement that they take eight hours off between shifts.

Jelcick said OPD regularly goes over its overtime budget. This year, detectives are taking patrol shifts to limit the need for overtime. The department made sure to fill positions on its downtown walking patrol and new neighborhood units — both funded by the public safety levy voters approved in 2017 — which involved moving people from the patrol division.

Olympia Fire Department, meanwhile, was short on paramedics last year, creating a need for overtime there, said Assistant Fire Chief Michael Buchanan. But in general, he said, having people on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week often requires overtime.

“This is not new,” he said. “It’s not that much different than last year and the year before.”

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Abby Spegman joined The Olympian in 2017. She covers the city of Olympia and a little bit of everything else. She previously worked at newspapers in Oregon, New Hampshire and Hawaii.


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