By Fran Spielman
The Chicago Sun-Times
CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department can no longer cite manpower shortages to deny requests from rank-and-file officers who want to use compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay, a federal judge has ruled.
In a decision that threatens to exacerbate the city's budget crunch, U.S. District Judge Sidney Schenkier said the Fair Labor Standards Act requires the city to grant comp time requests made with sufficient notice, even if it means calling other officers in on their days off to fill the void.
"We do not presume to tell the city how many police personnel it must hire or how to balance . . . budgetary and public safety concerns," Schenkier wrote in the ruling handed down Tuesday.
"However, it is clear that the [federal act] does not authorize the city to balance those challenging concerns on the backs of police personnel by awarding them compensatory time in lieu of cash payments for overtime work, then depriving them of the ability to use that compensatory time for reasons not permitted by the statute."
Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue hailed the ruling as a victory for rank-and-file officers who give the city weeks', even months' notice to attend family events, only to be refused because the city says it's "short" police personnel.
"It's something we've recognized for a long time. There is a manpower shortage, particularly in district law enforcement," he said. "The city will have to sit down and come to an agreement with us."
Deputy mayoral press secretary Jodi Kawada said the city is "examining whether to pursue an appeal.''
Manpower shortages in Chicago's 25 police districts were already a focal point in police contract negotiations.
Copyright 2007 Chicago Sun Times
Judge: Chicago PD can't deny comp time over cop shortages