‘The city is going to suffer’: PD Chief says new caps on OT hours not good for first responders

Published 12:04 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Not enough police officers plus a limit to the number of hours they can work equals a dangerous situation, according to Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins.

At its most recent meeting Tuesday, the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen voted to limit the amount of overtime hours per employee per pay period, applicable to every department of the City. The new policy places a maximum cap of 25 overtime hours per 2-week pay period, or 50 hours per monthly pay period. The only exception would be during a state of emergency.

The aldermen voted 5-0 to approve the policy. Ward 2 Alderman Shannon Moore and Ward 5 Alderman Fletcher Grice abstained from the vote.

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“That’s not going to work. The city is going to suffer,” Collins said. “When people begin to notice there are not enough police out to cover special events, or to fight crime, for parades, to escort funerals, they need to ask their aldermen what happened. You can’t cap overtime on first responders. It affects their ability to fight crime and keep the town safe.”

Collins said he personally works more than 100 hours each week, and has since he was elected, though he does not benefit financially from doing so. His officers work overtime because they are needed, he said.

“They have to work overtime, especially if someone is sick, there’s a family emergency, or if there is a major investigation such as a homicide or something like that, have to call in extra officers. There will definitely be overtime,” he said.

The decision was aimed solely at the police department, the chief said, not at the other departments of the City.

“I want the citizens, the schools, the Chamber of Commerce to keep planning their events. My officers will be there as needed, because we care about our community, about our city,” he said. “We’re going to keep on doing our job to protect our city, because crime does not stop at 50 hours. Crime is a 24-hour-a-day job.”

Collins said the board continuously has closed-door executive sessions under the banner of “personnel matters” without Collins or Assistant Chief Clint Earls involved.

“When the door is opened, they tell you what they decided and then they adjourn,” he said. “That’s their way of trying to run the police department. I’m an elected chief, chosen by the citizens of Brookhaven to run the police department. What the board is headed toward is to try to appoint a chief. But as long as I’m an elected chief, we’re going to do what it takes to keep the citizens, the schools and the city safe. And when my officers work overtime, let’s see them try not to pay them. If necessary, we’ll see them in court.”

Collins said he advises the Board to spend the City’s money where it is needed.

“Invest in these cameras and security systems and quit kicking it down the road,” Collins said. “What is the price of safety? What is the cost of someone’s life? Brookhaven is not broke.”