As a police corruption scandal rocks the city, the Baltimore Police Department will now mandate fingerprint scans for officers clocking in and out of shifts. Last year, the department budgeted $US16 million ($20 million) for overtime, yet spent $US44.9 million ($57 million). Testimony during the ongoing corruption trial revealed an informal overtime system wherein officers who brought in large hauls of guns or drugs were rewarded with off-the-books time off.
So far, six former officers have pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, while two former officers, Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, are fighting them. During the trial for Hersl and Taylor, administrators have admitted to gaming the overtime system. As part of the push to get guns off streets, officers were rewarded with slash days, or "G" days.
"You would hear squads say, 'Yeah, we got five guns last week, so we got five g days,' " a former commander told The Baltimore Sun. "Some districts were well known for it. Some supervisors were well known for it."
Some of the officers would claim overtime for their "slash" days, essentially being paid extra for days they didn't work. Through "G" days and slash days, officers could earn enormous amounts of overtime pay without being on the clock. The BPD is grossly understaffed, so each officer faces greater demands and higher quotas for recovering guns. But the reward system, in many ways, made things worse. Mayor Catherine Pugh ordered the audit of police overtime back in March, only days after the officers were indicted.
"We allow police overtime to run up when a lot of other areas of the city, like schools, housing and parks and recreation, could benefit from that money," Hugh told reporters in March.
Hersl and Taylor experienced a stark role reversal during the trial as they faced a judge while other officers and administrators took to the stand to describe police abuses. Similarly, the new biometric system darkly parallels how suspects are fingerprinted as they're brought into the station. In a nascent field of police technology, researchers have used policing tools on officers, including surveying body camera data to find racial bias and using predictive algorithms to predict officer misconduct. As demand for police reform surges, officers may find themselves under the lens of technological surveillance more and more often.