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Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison’s new policy declaring that injured officers on restricted duty could no longer receive overtime pay got an immediate reaction, he says:

Twenty-five injured officers declared they were healthy enough to return to full duty.

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On October 13, the department introduced rules that, among other things, banned officers on limited duty from working extra hours and collecting overtime while recovering. Twenty-five officers promptly came back to full duty, he said.

The new Administrative Duties Division includes about 100 officers who are on limited and medical duty, putting them all into one unit to help the department better track their status and their overtime. It will also help ensure officers get back to full service once they are well enough, something seemingly borne out by the early results.

Harrison implemented a similar policy when he oversaw the New Orleans Police Department.

“We had officers who were limited duty but who were being allowed to work overtime. Some were going to rehab while on overtime” pay, Harrison said. "We had to really look at that and put some controls into place.”

Harrison said that each commander also enforced light duty differently. “There was no continuity of leadership or policy,” he said.

Kenneth Thompson, head of the Baltimore Police consent decree monitoring team, said the move will be beneficial for getting officers healthy and back to work.

“It’s a good step forward and a good way to keep track of the folks who need attention” and make better decisions about deployment, he said. “I think it’s going to benefit the members of the department, and you can keep better tack of folks who are on sick leave."

City Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, chair of the public safety committee, said the additional oversight to ensure officers are getting better and getting back to full dusty is a positive step.

“It’s good to have these provisions in place,” he said. Schleifer said that he’s questioned members of the department about the number of officers on light duty and the length of time that they are on light duty. In the past, he said the city has had a higher number of officers on light duty for longer periods of time compared to other jurisdictions.

Lodge 3 of the Fraternal Order of Police did not return phone calls.

Previously, an officer assigned to a specific district would be under that commander and assigned to light duty, such as clerical work during recovery. They were also allowed to attend any necessary medical appointments. But department officials said that in some cases, officers collected overtime when they shouldn’t have. The practice did not always provide proper motivation for the officers to return to full duty, the department said.

The new unit comes after Harrison announced in June a broader crackdown on overtime, limiting officers to 32 hours of overtime per week.

The department has long struggled to contain overtime spending, especially as its roster has dwindled in recent years while violent crime remains stubbornly high. Overtime costs have doubled in five years to nearly $50 million for a department of about 2,300 sworn officers. Each year, Baltimore Police officers have regularly been among the city’s top earners thanks to overtime pay.

For those on light duty, Harrison said, officers’ recovery time can vary depending on the type of injury. Some officers might be recovering from a sprain or minor surgery. Others are going through far more difficult recoveries, including three officers injured after being shot this summer.

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“It may take a year to fully recover,” Harrison said. He also said officers who are injured should not be working additional hours as it may slow their recovery.

Better tracking and identifying the officers will also ensure that they make any necessary doctor’s appointments, he said.

The new unit is headed by Maj. Jim Rhoden.

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