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Cashing In: Overtime Boosts Port Authority Police Paychecks to $200,000+

In 2023, a staggering number of Port Authority Police Department officers earned six-figure overtime payments.

Over 200 officers earned over $100,000 with OT,  with one officer, Russell Polanco, earning a jaw-dropping $410,376 in total compensation. This included $238,236 in overtime pay alone.

His salary surpassed the executive director’s annual earnings of $290,051.

Polanco, a 16-year veteran, expressed surprise at his extraordinary earnings, attributing it to his diligent work ethic. The top three earners were Polanco, Calogero Bonello ($378,833, with $229,246 in overtime), and Maroun Ibrahim ($372,329, with $212,647 in overtime).

back of police in front of police car
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Concerns Over Rising Costs

E.J. Girardin, research director at Empire Center for Public Policy, warned that the escalating compensation could lead to higher tolls for motorists, stating, “If this trend continues, especially with overtime, it will translate into higher costs, including higher tunnel and bridge tolls.”

In total, 232 Port Authority police staff earned over $100,000 in overtime, with the department’s average overtime pay reaching $44,991. The agency’s total police overtime spending in 2023 was nearly $96 million, a 14% increase from 2022 and a 29% surge from 2019.

Justification and Criticism

The Port Authority PBA President, Frank Conti, attributed the excessive overtime to staffing issues, while a spokesman, Seth Stein, emphasized the importance of maintaining around-the-clock security due to the critical infrastructure overseen by the agency.

However, the Empire Center’s Girardin expressed concern over the rising costs, suggesting that motorists may bear the burden through increased tolls if the trend continues.

While the base salary for most officers would not make it a high-paying no-college job, the overtime pushes it to the top. But, that is not something every worker wants – more than ever work-life balance is becoming more of a priority. 

A Nationwide Issue

This issue is not just with the Port Authority. Cities around the country are facing mounting police officer overtime costs. 

  • Rochester, NY has paid out over $16 million in overtime in their last budget year.
  • The Baltimore Police Department has paid out an estimated $7.7 million in overtime pay to 100 officers.  
  • Chicago police earned $293 million in overtime pay in 2023, which was up 40% from 2022. It is also $193 million more than the $100 million set aside for OT pay.
  • Austin, TX paid out almost $50 million in their last fiscal year.
  • San Jose, CA paid out $58 million in overtime in the last fiscal year. 

We can find reasons for this trend in a 2023 study done by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). 

One main finding is that police department are losing officers faster than they can hire them. Resignations are on the rise with 50% more resignations in 2022 than 2019. 

Total sworn staffing has decreased by 5% in the past 3 years. 

trend of police officer hiring
Police Executive Search Forum

In a bit of good news, a recent survey is showing a small glimmer of hope. Larger agencies are still facing issues, but small to mid-sized agencies are seeing a small change in staffing. 

The overall number of total sworn officers is still down from 2021, but saw a .04 percent increase from 2023. 

Many departments are making efforts to decrease these overtime costs, but until we see an increase in applicants it will be a challenge. 

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