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Fall River Police Department Racks up $3.2 Million in Unfunded Comp Time

Daniel Ackerman

Fall River’s budget could one day be strained by $3.2 million-worth of comp time owed to police officers who earned the time off by working extra shifts and performing special duties. While that money isn’t funded in the budget, the city must pay officers for their unused comp time upon retirement.

Some officers have amassed more than 2,000 hours of comp time—exceeding a federally mandated cap of 480 hours. The findings stem from a recent audit of the police department, commissioned by Mayor Paul Coogan and completed by the Edward Davis Company, a police consulting firm.

Prior bargaining agreements between the city and the police union have allowed officers to surpass the federal limit and continue saving up comp time over the course of decades. “We have some people on the department right now that have almost two years of comp time in the bank,” says Coogan.

Fall River paid nearly $500,000 to retiring officers last year for unused comp time. And it’s unclear when the $3.2 million bill might come due. “You can’t budget for it, because how do you know who’s going in what year?” says Coogan. “It’s very tough.”

He says the current budget can sustain some unanticipated expenses, thanks in part to the COVID-19 stimulus package known as the CARES Act. “But down the road if we hit tight times, every dollar that goes into comp time is coming out of employees’ healthcare, somebody's salary, maybe some school equipment for kids. It's a real struggle.”

During the next round of negotiations with the police union, Coogan says he’ll push to bring the department’s comp time accrual practices into compliance with the federal limit of 480 hours per officer, established by the Fair Labor Standards Act. That likely means offering overtime pay, rather than comp time, when officers work extra shifts.

Daniel Ackerman has left CAI.
In his time at the station he reported on the South Coast. He came to the station from Minnesota Public Radio, where he reported on science and the environment. Daniel has produced audio documentaries on a motley mix of topics, from the science of sewage to the history of automobile license plates. He holds a PhD in climate change ecology from the University of Minnesota. Daniel was a 2021-22 Report For America corps member.