Arlington County Auditor Recommends Improvements for Managing Police

Published on May 29, 2019

A performance audit conducted by the County Auditor as part of his Fiscal Year 2018 work plan found that the Arlington County Police Department's overtime costs exceeded budgeted expenses in Fiscal Years 2016, 2017 and 2018. The audit did not identify any evidence of improper overtime.

The gap between budgeted costs and actual overtime pay increased each year from FY 2016 through FY 2018, the audit found. Overtime totaled $5.46 million in FY 2018, or 56 percent beyond the budgeted amount. Some of that overtime was offset by reimbursements for policing at special events and off-duty employment details.

"The audit focused on root causes leading to police overtime, and on whether controls were in place to effectively monitor and manage overtime," County Auditor Chris Horton said. His report included several recommendations for strengthening internal controls to ensure efficiency and transparency in overtime operations. Horton also is performing audits this year of overtime in the Fire Department and Sheriff's office. He completed an audit of the County's Emergency Operations Center in 2018.

Most police overtime in FY 2018 came from daily activities, which includes daily tasks, such as reports or calls, that officers complete after their regular shifts, and instances when officers are called back to work, the audit found. Assignments for special events, such as the Marine Corps Marathon, and off-duty activities also contribute significantly to overtime. While the audit confirmed numerous controls in place regarding approval of overtime, it also found that several ACPD controls should be strengthened to better ensure overtime is accurately recorded and managed.

Police Chief Jay Farr said the department agreed with most of the findings, while noting that for several years, the department "has struggled to attract and retain police officers," and is still "unable to achieve full staffing."  Under-staffing, Chief Farr said, has "placed added strain on the men and women of the agency and resulted in an increased use of overtime funds to meet minimum staffing requirements along with other mission critical deployments."

Over the past three fiscal years, Chief Farr noted, the department was reimbursed a total of between $1.159 million and $1.264 million in overtime costs connected to policing of special events and off-duty employment. Although the majority of overtime is non-discretionary, "we are committed to working strategically to ensure smart utilization of our resources as well as finances," the Chief said.

"The auditor's thorough review of police overtime over the past three years has identified areas where oversight and controls should be strengthened, and specified how to do that," said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. "That is exactly what the independent auditor is supposed to do — identify areas where we can improve and tell us how to achieve efficiencies. The police chief has agreed with the majority of findings and is taking steps to ensure careful accounting and transparency in the use of overtime."

In his audit report, Horton called for improving controls to ensure that overtime recorded was actually worked; strengthening the billing process for reimbursable expenses; improving reconciliation of data and improving the process of calculating minimum staffing to improve budget monitoring and transparency. He recommended that the department consider having an entity independent of Police Operations regularly assess whether overtime is being worked and paid in compliance with policies and procedures and assess whether there is unnecessary or abusive overtime.

The auditor will present his findings to the Audit Committee on Monday, June 3, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., in Room 311 at the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center, 2100 Clarendon Blvd. The meeting is open to the public. The auditor is expected to formally present his findings to the County Board this summer.

To read the full report, including all the findings and recommendations, visit the County website.

About the County Auditor

The County Auditor serves as an independent audit function, reporting to the Arlington County Board with additional guidance from the Audit Committee. The County Auditor conducts independent performance and operational audits of County departments, programs, and services. These audits focus on program efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency.