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Independence launches investigation after police officer racks up $160K in overtime

'At best, it's incompetence; at worst, it's fraud'
Indep OT copy.jpg
Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 20:16:05-05

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — An Independence police officer is under investigation by the city for racking up at least $160,000 in overtime for non-police work, according to City Manager Zach Walker.

Police officers are paid to serve the community, but in this case the overtime was for construction work at the Independence Detention Unit.

The I-Team is not identifying the officer, because no disciplinary action has been taken at this time.

The officer logged 2,800 hours of overtime for painting and other construction projects at the jail in 2021, according to Walker.

Between overtime and regular pay, the officer made more than $200,000 last year.

"That was not spent on any kind of law enforcement activity, (he) was not out there responding to calls solving a crime, helping a community member," Walker said. "That’s really disappointing to me."

An overtime slip obtained by the I-Team details some of the work the officer did at the jail, including 12 hours for painting the crime lab and a hallway then cleaning up the equipment on Jan. 3, 2021.

The officer noted he performed the work, "per Chief Halsey."

Halsey announced his retirement from the department on Dec. 3, 2021. Sources told the I-Team that the officer's overtime work outside the scope of his law-enforcement duties continued despite Halsey's departure.

Walker said no one within the department has the authority to assign this type of work to an officer and added that maintenance staff could've done the job while on the clock without incurring overtime for only the cost of materials.

"That one employee who has taken over $200,000 dollars in salary and overtime is not being good steward of the public dollar and is letting this community down," Walker said.

Walker said the city's finance department noticed the overtime and thought it was an error until someone within the police department said the time sheets were valid.

The finance department's failure to flag the overtime outside of the police department more quickly is an issue Walker said needs to be addressed, but he said the investigation — for which the city will hire a third-party — is focused solely on those within the police department.

"What about this organizational culture within the police department ever made anybody think this was permissible?" Walker said. "At best it's incompetence. At worst, it's fraud."

The overtime also helps bolster the officer's pension when the time comes, but Walker said that will be corrected, if wrongdoing is substantiated.

Walker also has requested an audit on the police department's finances.

While the city manager has the authority to take disciplinary measures against the officer, Walker said he won't make any decisions until the audit is complete.

His primary concern centers on the decision-making by those with leadership roles in the department.

The police officer who received the overtime remains on duty.

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