Column: There's no such thing as easy overtime for police
Once or twice a week the phone rang in the wee hours of the morning. “Hello,” I answered as I pull myself out of the covers and took the cordless phone out of the bedroom so as not to disturb my wife. I wake quickly, have good night vision and a well developed kinesthetic sense of my home honed over years of repeating this scene.
“Let me run something by you Rich,” was the most common opening from the night shift patrol supervisor. The desk sergeant or lieutenant would then brief me on the incident, which could be anything from a homicide to a teenager “tagging” graffiti on business walls.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Part of my job was to recommend the proper investigative response to the incident. Some investigations could wait until morning. Some scenes need immediate attention, because witnesses are all available and their recollection is freshest. Forensically speaking, crime scenes need to be worked as quickly as possible so they do not become contaminated. Obviously suspicious deaths have to be worked as soon as they are encountered.
Furthermore if arrests have been made, the police and prosecutor are on the clock. The reports must be written by the police and reviewed by the prosecutor’s office, and the arrestees have to be in front of a judge within 48 hours of arrest. It is very labor intensive, so the sooner detectives start putting the case together the better.
These decisions had to be made right away even though I had just been awakened. My decision was anything from no response by detectives to, “I’ll be right in and start calling all the detectives at home and get them in,” for a homicide.
I appreciated those calls from patrol command, and for those wondering, I was uncompensated for them. My alternative was to walk into work at 6 a.m. and find a mess that was fouled up beyond all repair (FUBAR) which caused greater headaches than the sleep loss I invested.
Most times patrol needed only a detective or two to respond. If there was more to the case, when the detectives assigned got in to work them and they realized more help was needed, I would be on my way and calling other detectives in as I drove.
Many cases only required one detective to respond after hours. Invariably, unless I knew he was out of town, I told the patrol supervisor to, “Call (David) Monroe at home and get him in right away.” My partner, the other Detective Sergeant who assigned cases in the other half of the city, would receive similar calls from patrol. His reply to command would be, “Call (Bill) Stanford at home and get him in right away.”
Detectives Monroe and Stanford were "called in" time and again. Those calls cost them at the very least a lot of sleep loss and in the worst cases — family holidays and precious moments lost at home. It is not easy being on call 24/7. I did it for the last 13 years of my career, and I do not miss it.
Being on call changes your life. Can you have a drink with your pals? Well yes, but only if your partner is available for the call in. Do the calls come at the worst possible moment imaginable? Yes, you cannot even imagine the good times it ruins and the plans with loved ones it destroys.
Last Sunday I felt gut-shot by the headline “MILKING OVERTIME” in AnnArbor.com's print edition. Articles of outrage in Ann Arbor over public safety wages or pensions in May at budget time or during contract negotiations are as predictable as pieces on the Art Fair or Michigan football, but this was over the top.
It literally made me sick to my stomach when I thought of all the times I was responsible for calling Det. Dave Monroe and Det. Bill Stanford and about a half dozen other detectives away from their homes and families. Many times I was there with them, but to read the headline “Milking Overtime” was sickening. That headline completely vilified these two great detectives and minimized their contribution to the community.
My partner and I — as well as the guys who took our jobs when we retired — absolutely depended on these two detectives! Not only are they two of the finest detectives I have ever worked with, but they always answered their phones and responded when they were called.
Even though the city supplied cell phones at first — and later paid an allowance to maintain a personally owned cell phone — for detectives in return for 24-hour availability, only about a half dozen detectives consistently answered their phones from home and responded. Some detectives had good reasons — like childcare issues — that prohibited them from responding after hours. For many they just did not have the “ALL IN” dedication to “the job” that Dave Monroe and Bill Stanford have.
Monroe and Stanford are family men, great detectives and work well together when necessary but have very different styles. One is meticulous and strategic in his approach, and one does not suffer delays easily and is a tactical bulldog. Both are effective and solve a lot of cases that seemed unsolvable. If a crime made its way to the front page of the paper in the past 10 years, chances are one or the other had his hand in the case.
When I assigned cases to detectives I seldom assigned this pair day-to-day cases because they got called in on so many bigger crimes. The rule of thumb has always been if you get the overtime — you get assigned the case you came in on. Detectives only come in after hours on “big” cases, ergo these guys got the lion’s share of them.
For those wondering why a detective is not assigned to midnights — it has been tried, and there is not enough for them to do, especially since a midnight detective cannot knock on doors at 3:30 in the morning for routine follow-up. A midnight detective would also break the overtime bank by having to appear during the day for court.
For police supervisors searching for a detective in the middle of the night or weekend, Detectives David Monroe and Bill Stanford are both worth their weight in gold. The overtime compensation they received was earned, and in my opinion each is worth twice what they made based on their dedication, level of expertise and the crimes they have solved that have put very dangerous criminals in prison.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.