05/15/2012 03:26 EDT | Updated 07/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Transit police overtime costs criticized in report

A review of Metro Vancouver's Transit Police says officers are making double the overtime of their colleagues at the Vancouver Police Department, but there is little TransLink can do to lower the cost.

The review, which was conducted by the audit unit of the Vancouver Police Department, looked at a wide range of operational and administrative issues, and made 30 recommendations, many of which have already been implemented.

But the review concluded transit police are in a unique position because they are part of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, the same union that represents a number of other TransLink employees — and that collective bargaining agreement simply isn't suited to police work.

"Some clauses within the Transit Police Collective Agreement contribute to driving up operating costs per officer but the Transit Police is limited in its ability to effect change," said the report.

For example, transit police officers are paid at 125 per cent of their salary whenever they work on a Sunday, something that doesn't happen at other police forces where weekend work is part of the job.

The review also found overtime premiums paid for call-out shifts, which are unscheduled overtime shifts, appear unjustified. Officers are paid double-time for the first nine hours, then 225 per cent of their hourly rate after nine hours and 300 per cent after 10 ½ hours.

In 2009, TransLink police officers charged more than $1.1 million in overtime. As a comparison, the VPD patrol division charged about half that and is four times the size.

The review concludes there is little Transit Police management can do to bring down those overtime rates, as changing the contract would affect other COPE members at TransLink.

But it did recommend changes to the minimum staffing for call-outs, the frequency of extended shifts and the scheduling of traffic court appearances that could bring down overtime costs.

Overtime cost coming down

Transit Police Chief Neil Dubord says the force has already moved to cut overtime costs by 50 per cent this year.

"Certainly we can do a better job on our overtime, and I think we've done that. We've put in some policies"

And despite the overtime concerns the officer in charge of the VPD Audit Unit, Deputy Chief Adam Palmer, said overall the Transit Police are operated efficiently.

"The comprehensive review established the Transit Police Service is an efficient organization that is effectively responding to issues of crime and disorder in the transit system," Palmer wrote in the report.

"Operating costs per Transit Police officer are aligned with other B.C. police agencies based on the 2009 edition of Police Resources in B.C."

But the report concluded the Transit Police Service should be able to lower its operational costs because it does not maintain its own detention facilities.