Denver Sheriff Department paid $14 million in overtime in 2016, on pace to match in 2017

DENVER -- The Denver Sheriff Department paid out $14 million in overtime in 2016, and despite efforts to lower costs, is on pace to match that number this year.

The department hired nearly 200 new deputies in the past year and vowed to change employment practices to help solve the problem.

But a union leader said deputies are concerned.

“We had 80 slots just today alone to fill,” FOP Lodge No. 27 vice president Mike Britton said. “And that’s on a regular basis.”

Britton said he has worked 438 hours of overtime in the first six months of 2017.

“Today I worked 14 hours,” he said. “Tomorrow I’ll work 14 more. Right now, we don’t have a safe jail when you start having officers work this amount of overtime.”

Britton said each deputy can work a maximum of 32 hours of overtime a week in addition to their regular hours.

“You’re talking well over 100 hours in a given two-week period,” he said. “You cannot sustain that without people breaking down and without mistakes being made.”

After paying out $14 million in overtime in 2016, in the first six months of 2017, the department has paid out nearly $7 million, according to the Department of Public Safety.

One deputy cashed in more than $111,000 in overtime in 2016, while three others made at least $90,000 in overtime alone.

“While overtime use remains a focal point, the department recognizes that recruiting and employee retention are the larger, underlying issue and work is underway to employ strategies that will increase staffing level," Sheriff Patrick Firman said in a statement.

Britton said deputies have been calling for more hires, but it’s not working.

“These officers see the dysfunction of this department and the way it is being managed, and they exit as quick as they get in there,” he said. “It’s a mess here. Total mess, and it’s not getting any better.”

Despite the overtime pay, the department came in under its budget by $126,000 in 2016 and is on pace to come in under budget in 2017, according to Firman.