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Dissension flared among top police supervisors regarding overtime

Police Chief Bill Citty

Police Chief Bill Citty

Back in September, when Jim Couch discussed why he was retiring after 18 years as city manager, the first thing he mentioned was the opportunity, at 62, for another career.

Second was stress. 

"Maybe some day I won't have to take calls at 2 o'clock in the morning from the police chief," he said.

Two weeks ago, police Chief Bill Citty began a news conference to announce his retirement by thanking his wife.

"She's been through bad days," he said, "because this is a job that you cannot do and not take home."

Citty spent much of the next 30 minutes talking about conflict, within the department and without.

His retirement announcement came amid dissension among his top deputies over overtime policy and pressure from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the police officers' union.

Citty said his decision came at the "right time for me, for the department and for the city."

That aside, FOP Lodge 123 appeared determined to see Citty go, ordering a $100,000 media campaign critical of the chief after the city auditor concluded an ethics complaint filed by four deputy chiefs was unsubstantiated.

The ethics complaint was tied to the deputy chiefs' contention they are paid for eight hours and scheduled for nine, and therefore due overtime.

The city's position is that top-ranking police supervisors have, for decades, been on an annual salary, as distinct from hourly employees who get time-and-a-half for overtime.

In a letter to the FOP last April, denying a contract grievance, Couch said the city was willing to negotiate changes to "overtime and/or wages" for majors and deputy chiefs.

Couch added he was willing to consider changes to work schedules for lunch breaks.

In arbitration, the city has characterized the FOP's grievance as "an effort to seize a large increase in pay that has not been negotiated."

Back in his news conference, Citty referred to the ethics complaint as the "elephant in the room."

"There’s always disagreements," he said, "and those disagreements need to happen because that’s what makes things change."

"I support the FOP," he said. "I’m a member of the FOP. I have been for 40 years.

"I truly believe the mission of the FOP is to support our police officers.

"I don’t always agree with a particular leadership and philosophy but I do believe in the mission."

Citty, who retires May 2, said the police union "deep down wants the same things I want and that’s to make this the best department possible."

William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›