Massachusetts Environmental Police audit reveals unapproved overtime

Massachusetts

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – A lack of an effective system for tracking time and attendance was found in an audit of the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

During the time period July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018 of the audit, MEP had 119 employees. 85 out of those 119 employees were 46 officers, 22 sergeants, and 17 lieutenants. Those 85 officers were entitled to receive overtime according to MEP’s policies.

MEP’s “paid detail” policy indicates “any extra work assignment not paid for by the department as overtime.” The audit states for the fiscal years ended June 20, 2017, and June 30, 2018, MEP’s state appropriations totaled $10,547,986 and $9,776,081.

Detailed audit findings:

  1. The Massachusetts Environmental Police did not always obtain required approval for overtime.

Of the 74 overtime transaction, MEP could not provide adequate documentation to support the officers in question who reported overtime on their timesheets.

2. The Massachusetts Environmental Police did not properly maintain its police dispatch records.

There were a total number of 1,961 instances in which records show officers worked more hours than allowed in a day. There were also 130 instances discovered where officers remained logged in from 100 hours to 369 hours without logging out or updating their duty status.

3. The Massachusetts Environmental Police may have improperly received as much as $42,623 in overtime.

MEP did not ensure that officers worked 8,5 hours in their work days, 40 regular work hours, or 40 of a combination of work hours and paid time off hours. There were 327 instances where 65 officers were improperly compensated as much as $42,623 in overtime.

4. The Massachusetts Environmental Police officers were allowed to split shifts to earn overtime without documentation of proper approval.

Officers worked 1,834 split shifts which they earned overtime but never received documented approval to do so. A split shift is when an officer leaves their regular scheduled duties to work on a paid detail or overtime. When this happens, officers need to return afterward and complete the required hours. According to Bump, it’s uncommon for state police and other agencies to allow split hours. In addition, the audit discovered 784 overtime shifts that officers did not receive documented approval before splitting their regular time to work overtime.

5. The Massachusetts Environmental Police did not maintain overtime rosters to ensure the equitable distribution of overtime to its officers.

MEP did not keep track of when each officer was asked to work overtime and whether each one accepted or declined any overtime offered.

“MEP needs to improve its technology and management accountability to ensure that hours worked are more rigorously tracked and overtime approvals and allocations are more rigorously accounted for.

We found many instances of poor record-keeping, including undocumented overtime approvals, as well as management practices incompatible with both wage and hour laws and the collective bargaining agreement. The potential for abuse is amplified by the agency’s permitting of shift-splitting, a practice unique among state law enforcement agencies precisely because of its potential for manipulation in order to enhance overtime earnings.

This is not the first time that the agency has been called out for its lax practices. I hope this audit helps ensure it is the last time.”

Suzanne M. Bump

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