CLEVELAND — As Cleveland Division of Police staffing shortages increased, patrol officers picked up the slack, in some cases earning as much as six figures in overtime last year, according to a News 5 Investigation.
Watch the full report on News 5 at 6 p.m.
The police department's top overtime earner made more than Cleveland's mayor last year. Patrol Officer Karl Lloyd's total compensation was $188,056.82 in 2021. Officer Lloyd made $119,637.34 in overtime, almost double his base pay of $67,619.48.
"He (Lloyd) feels he can work that much. He’s probably saving other people from being mandated and taking it and doing it himself," said Jeff Follmer, President of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association.
There were 41 Cleveland police officers who earned more than $50,000 in overtime in 2021.
The average amount of overtime for a Cleveland police officer last year was $11,067.
Where they work
Many of the Cleveland top overtime earners were not patrolling the streets last year. Instead, at least 10 of the officers were assigned to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, including Karl Lloyd.
Along with Lloyd, we found the following officers assigned to the airport made significant amounts of overtime last year.
Why they earn so much
Follmer said the Cleveland Division of Police is short-staffed. The Cleveland Division of Police is budgeted for 1,640 officers. As of May 10, police said there were 1,383 officers on staff.
"I’m actually surprised there’s not more (overtime)," Follmer said. "You can make as much as you want at this job right now."
Follmer also said the FAA requires a certain number of officers to be at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport at all times. Police officers at the airport also have to have a special security clearance.
He said the city's airport unit is not the only specialized unit struggling to fill shifts. "The homicide, sex crimes, domestic violence units are all short, so there’s nobody to pull from anybody until we get more hires," he said.
View a searchable database of base salary and overtime pay for the entire Cleveland Police Department here:
Who's to blame
We shared our findings with Cleveland City Councilman Mike Polensek, the longest-serving councilman in Cleveland's history. He is also currently the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, which oversee the Cleveland Division of Police.
"When I saw the information, it was shocking, quite frankly, to look at what some of the individuals are making," he said. " When you realize that it’s not only making a little more than the mayor of the City of Cleveland, it’s substantially more than the mayor of the City of Cleveland, that’s where it really sets you back."
We also found officers assigned to the airport didn't only make a lot of money in overtime in 2021. We found the top earners earned significant amounts of overtime in 2019 and 2020, when the airport was almost empty.
"Who is managing this? Who is on top of this stuff?" Polensek said.
Polensek blamed the current staffing shortage for the overtime figures. He's been on city council since 1978. He said it's never been harder for police to recruit and retain officers.
"We’re hemorrhaging," he said.
He also blames a long history of mismanagement by city administrators.
"What is inherently wrong here?" he said. "Is it a genetic issue? Is it something in the water? I don't know what it is. Maybe there's too much lead in the water. I don't know what it is. What is here that we just can't seem to get it together?"
What Cleveland is doing
Interim Police Chief Wayne Drummond said supervisors keep an eye on overtime, "we're all responsible for managing OT and the assignment of our personnel."
Drummond said he constantly reassesses how to deploy officers. In fact, the day this story aired, Drummond announced four more officers were assigned to the airport.
He said officers can earn overtime in various ways including working vacation days and up to 16 hours a day.
"These officers are not sitting at home earning the overtime. They're working all those hours," Drummond said.
But all that overtime pay adds up, not just in the short-term, but for years to come. An officer's pension is based on their five highest-earning years.
All those extra hours can also have health implications.
"We're always looking out for the welfare of our officers. It's important that we keep them healthy, " said Drummond, "If the officers appear to be fatigued, the officers will be made to leave."
What science says
Karen Amendola, Chief Behavioral Scientist with the National Policing Institute, said Cleveland should aggressively recruit officers and do its best to mitigate long and excessive shifts.
"You're putting not only those officers at risk for long-term health problems, and safety risks, and you're putting the community at risk," she said.
While officers who work at the airport have a lower stress assignment than officers patrolling Cleveland's streets, Amendola said the effects of working too much are similar.
"Long hours take a toll no matter what," she said. "You're still not at your home, you're not sleeping, you're not getting sufficient rest or having the proper balance of things."
"If you're fatigued, you're fatigued, right?" she said.
Amendola said the effects of working excessive overtime and odd hours have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and early death. She also said fatigue and overtime are related to decreased ability to make good decisions, which increases the risk of an officer making a fatal mistake.
Amendola said Cleveland is "not atypical." She said some law enforcement agency officers earn up to $200,000 a year because of overtime.