Thursday, March 1, 2007

Secondary Employment Numbers Available Online

Throughout all of the various news stories, posts, and comments about police secondary employment, there have been a huge number of cost and revenue estimates thrown around. The amount of money that the city might be able to collect through a cost recovery arrangement has varied widely, from the low $200,000s to well over $1 million. Former Police Chief Robert McNeilly has been reported as estimating that his program would bring in around $500,000. That amount was used by City Councilmember William "Cojònes" Peduto in yesterday's press release on this topic, while my own estimates are that the Peduto plan could bring in between $710,000 and $730,000.

It can be enormously difficult to keep up with all of these estimates, especially when you are trying to read something at the same time. Who's to know who's right about these calculations? It's extremely easy to make a simple mistake in one's assumptions or one's arithmetic, and thus all of the available estimations are somewhat suspect.

In the interests of transparancy, and with the hope that someone might point out any errors that I may have made in doing my calculations, I am posting my own cost recovery speadsheet online. It's based on all of the numbers provided in a recent Tribune-Review article by Jeremy Boren, and calculates a wide range of costs and revenues under a variety of different assumptions.

I've been updating this spreadsheet for a while now, and I think that, at this point, I've mostly gotten all of the numbers right. As I've worked with it and the results have become more clear, I've been going back into my earlier response to Mr. Boren's article and changing the numbers there so that they match the ones shown here. But perhaps the best thing for me to do is to make these numbers available to everybody, so that you can do with them whatever you wish.

It may be worthwhile if I explain a few things about what this spreadsheet contains. It starts off with the number of off-duty hours that city police officers worked during the period from February 2006 to January 2007, along with how much money they earned by doing this work. These numbers are broken down into those jobs which were managed and tracked through the Pittsburgh Police Department's Special Events Office, and those which were handled through private contracting arrangements.

Most of the rest of the calculations depend upon knowing the average prevailing hourly wage for a police officer who is working an off-duty detail. I've used five different estimates, each of which is color-coded so that the numbers are bit easier to track. First, I used a rate of $24.00 per hour, which is based on the wages that Sergeant Mark Eggleton and Officer Brian Roberts were earning (albeit under the table) on the night of their incident with Deven Werling. Next, I used the overall average, across tracked and untracked jobs combined, of $26.39. For a third wage assumption, I used the $30.07 average wage which applied only to those jobs which were tracked through the Sepcial Events Office.

The final two sets of wage-based numbers are probably the closest to what will happen in the future. First, I used the $37.50 value that was provided in the original Tribune-Review article. And finally, I used an hourly wage of $38.54, which I got from an anonymous comment left in response to an earlier post:

Anything that runs through the city computer system is charged at the current year's Police Officer 4 time-and-half rate. Which as of 2007 is $38.54.
For each of these different hourly wage values, I have computed a bunch of different numbers under a bunch of different cost-recovery plans. I've also computed something that I haven't seen factored into any other discussions on this topic, which is how much money the city and the school district are likely to earn once all of the wages from these secondary employment details are paid out via the city payroll department, and proper withholding can be done.

I hope that these numbers prove useful to somebody. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for improvements, I would be delighted to hear from you.


Rich Lord Steps Up said...


Most impressive post, as always. Both camps would be wise to study your attached spreadsheet. The debate should not center on whether to pursue cost recovery, it should center on the logistics of implementation.

And oh, check out Rich Lord's "Early Returns" comments on secondary employment (sorry, I'm not skilled in the mysterious art of "linking") - I think he's definitely stepped up to the plate, and one might speculate that Rich's grasp of the situation is closer to the truth than his editors will allow him to express in his articles on secondary employment. One interesting thing that Rich emphasizes - EVEN THE FOP HAS NO PROBLEM WITH COST RECOVERY! Their dispute lies in the proper percentage or fee, which makes Luke's position even more absurd. Indeed, some would say it's proof of Luke's desire to appease a much smaller subset of the police machinery: those who earn $ scheduling off-duty work/about 5 people, one of which is, as Rich Lord astutely points out: Sgt. John Fisher, the man who released Luke from his arrest and the same man who is rumored to be the subject of a promotion to commander, which promotion is rumored to be delayed until just after the primary...

Richmond K. Turner said...

Thanks every so much for your kind words. And thanks also for pointing out the "Early Returns" thing; I hadn't noticed it until you told me about it.

You are right about the FOP. When they walked into that meeting with the Mayor on 21 November 2006, they never dreamed that he would simply eradicate the cost recovery fee. At best, they were hoping to talk him into cutting it down to some incredibly small amount ($2 per hour if the city recruited an officer to work the detail, $4 per hour is the employer wanted a specific officer to handle the job).

When he turned around and eliminated the fee althogether, it must have shocked the living hell out of them. It was like Christmas had come early.

Thanks again for your comments.