In January, Los Angeles Police Det. Nate Kouri was ordered to stop working. The Los Angeles Times says that one of the city’s most productive homicide investigators sat idle for six weeks, unable to follow leads on old cases or pick up new ones. Kouri was not being punished for misconduct or for botching an investigation. He was benched for working too hard — and he is not the only one. With the city reeling from its worst financial crisis in decades, the police department has stopped paying officers overtime wages, except in rare situations.
In lieu of cash, officials have implemented a strict policy of forcing cops to take time off when they accrue large amounts of overtime hours. Because of demanding work schedules that routinely require them to investigate a case into the night or through the weekend, homicide detectives have been among the first officers to be sent home in significant numbers. The drain on homicide squads has hampered investigations,detectives and top department officials said. Detectives said their investigations are frequently put on hold while they take days off, delaying witness interviews and other potentially important leads. And, in the crucial first hours after a killing, several supervisors said they now dispatch fewer detectives to the crime scene. A rash of homicides in recent weeks has compounded the problem, placing increased strain on detectives already running up against overtime limits and leaving homicide supervisors to worry that a prolonged surge in killings will quickly overwhelm the stop-gap measures they are currently using to get by. Police Chief Charlie Beck has used the rise in killings to underscore his warnings to city lawmakers that further cuts to the department’s budget would continue to compromise its ability to fight crime.