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Probe into Independence police overtime clears officer, recommends changes to city policies

Stock Independence Police Station 2
Posted at 8:40 AM, Jul 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-19 16:30:40-04

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — The probe into "excessive" overtime within the Independence Police Department cleared the primary officer in question and highlight issues with existing city policies.

Dan Nelson, who was hired as special counsel to investigate what the city referred to as "excessive" overtime, announced his findings Tuesday at a press briefing.

The investigation began after the KSHB 41 I-Team received a tip that an Independence police officer logged more than 2,800 hours of overtime, earning more than $169,000 in extra pay during one year.

The overtime was for work performed at the municipal detention center, including painting, carpeting and some electrical work.

Nelson is expected to indicate that the work performed was of good value compared to if the city had hired a contractor, according to sources.

However, Independence City Manager Zach Walker previously told the I-Team that city maintenance staff could've performed the work for the cost of materials.

One of Nelson's recommendations, which were presented Monday to the Independence City Council, will be to prohibit in-house construction work, the KSHB 41 I-Team has learned. The city is expected to adopt the policy change.

Additionally, the I-Team has learned Nelson's investigation discovered issues with record keeping with respect to overtime.

Nelson suggested the city implement a "modern digital payroll system" that links overtime records with work records.

Nelson suggests the city review overtime and implement red flags and audits, according to sources.

Other suggestions are expected to include a "hard OT cap" city-wide.

The I-Team also has learned that Nelson's investigation discovered that the city's overtime policy allows police officers to earn overtime pay for their commute into work.

Independence police officer are allowed to live outside city limits, so that overtime pay for commuting can add up to a significant expense.

For instance, the officer at the center of the probe lives 40 miles from Independence police headquarters.

Finally, Nelson addressed police fatigue, which can set in when officers are working too much overtime.

The city council previously discussed changes to municipal OT pay rules, but declined to make any decisions before Nelson completed his report.

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