At Miami Port, Security Costs Surging

As police rake overtime, earning $180K salary, problem is lack of training, administrative confusion


"In every officer's career, there comes a point where they need to be sent somewhere where they aren't interacting with the public on a daily basis. This was one of those places," said Capt. Gary Shimminger.

"Every organization has its Siberia," added Sgt. Norberto Gonzalez.

Buckner, whose regular assignment is an administrative job in the Northside Office, said all the overtime at the port exacts a personal toll.

"A lot of guys don't want to stand out on Port Boulevard in the summer, when it's 113 degrees, crawling in and out of trucks," he said. "I give up a lot of time with my family."

Like other officers working the port, Buckner routinely exceeds the department's safety rule that prohibits officers from working more than 80 hours at regular time and 64 hours of "voluntary" overtime in any two-week pay period.

For the two weeks ending July 30, he worked 80 hours at regular time and 94.5 hours of overtime, county records show. In the same pay period, a colleague worked 80 hours at regular time and 104 hours of overtime.

Cooper said that there are so few officers trained to work the port that they are compelled to take the overtime. Therefore, the rule on "voluntary" overtime does not apply.

CHECKING FOR FATIGUE

But, she said, she gets regular memos naming the officers who have exceeded the limit and checks with their supervisors to make sure they are not showing signs of fatigue.

MDPD Director Robert Parker said he has no problem with the officers exceeding the limit, as long as they can do it "safely, legitimately and within the rules."

MDPD officers at the port exceeded the limit at least 128 times in the first seven months of 2006, county records show.

<<Miami Herald, The (KRT) -- 11/01/06>>