As the murder total has risen to 319, the highest in six years, the clearance rate has dropped to 32 percent, and overtime spending has been cut, leading detectives, union officials and even prosecutors to cry foul.
In a darkened corner office on the second floor of Philadelphia Police headquarters, more than 80 detectives squeeze into the cramped confines of the homicide unit. Detectives work marathon shifts to identify murder suspects and in return, they typically earn staggering amounts of overtime, reports Philly.com. That arrangement has started to fray. As the murder total has risen to 319, the highest in six years, overtime spending has been cut, leading detectives, union officials and even prosecutors to cry foul. In 2017, homicide detectives earned an average of $69,536 in overtime — with 10 pulling down more than $100,000 — on top of an average salary of $83,000. Through the first three quarters of this year, 30 detectives have seen their overtime fall by $5,000 to $10,000.
Veteran investigators said the cuts have translated into less time to prepare for trials, and restrictions on their ability to interview witnesses who turn up during off hours. Some times late at night, the office has been staffed by a single detective. “Homicide detectives are being sent home mid-investigation,” said John McGrody of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5. “Crimes are not being solved because of the slashing of overtime.” Police Commissioner Richard Ross and Capt. Jack Ryan, head of the homicide unit, insisted the budget reduction of 5 percent across the police department has not hurt investigations. “There are no draconian measures that were put in place,” Ross said. “All [Ryan] is asking for is for people to justify what they are doing.” The homicide unit’s clearance rate tumbled to 32 percent in 2016 from a peak of 66 percent in 2010. “Why the hell would their overtime be cut?” asked Yullio Robbins, whose son was fatally shot in 2016, a killing that remains unsolved. This fiscal year, almost $70 million was spent on police overtime. Of that, $6 million went to homicide detectives. This year, $4.5 million is budgeted.