Retired sergeant making bank, earning $71K of overtime in seven months  

A 70-year-old, retired police sergeant brought in $71,629 of overtime pay in the first 200 days of the year on an annual base salary of $80,131.

The Atlanta Community Press Collective obtained Atlanta Police Department (APD) pay data in response to a community member’s open records request for salaries and demographic information for all APD’s sworn officers.  

Janice Sturdivant is a former supervisor of APD’s Police Personnel department, which functions similarly to a human resources department. She returned to work at the department under a program designed to address attrition rates by recapturing retired officers ranked Lieutenant and below at their last held salary without paying additional benefits. Participants in the program are allowed to receive their pension while simultaneously earning their departmental salary.

While the program faced criticism in its early years, city officials expanded it in 2021 to allow retired APD officers to be rehired to patrol city parks.

The recaptured officers enter into employment contracts with the city that are intended to last no longer than three years, according to the 2015 resolution authorizing the program. Sturdivant joined the program in 2016, making more than any of the 22 other recaptured officers in the program that year. George Turner, who was APD’s Police Chief in 2016 when Sturdivant was rehired, defended the cost of her recapture to WSB-TV that year, saying, “The work that Sergeant Sturdivant does on behalf of our police department is stellar work. And if there’s an opportunity for me to keep a person like Sergeant Sturdivant around, I’ll do everything I can to make sure she continues to do the work that she’s doing, if she chooses.”

A 2020 resolution reauthorizing Sturdivant’s recapture contract stated her compensation was not to exceed $80,131.11 annually, but that year the sergeant made $152,636—nearly double her authorized salary. The following year Sturdivant did even better, earning $171,503.

Between regular and overtime pay through July 19 this year, Sturdivant earned $114,777, more than any other employee in APD other than Police Chief Darin Scheirbaum, who earned $129,574. Sturdivant, who is currently part of APD’s Uniform Patrol division, is on track to net just over $210,000 for 2023.

How Sturdivant managed to accrue so much overtime pay is unclear. Between regular hours, overtime, and extra jobs, APD officers are limited to 130 hours of work per every two-week pay period, unless given prior authorization by a division commander. APD overtime is paid at time-and-a-half for all qualified employees. To make $71,629 in time-and-a-half pay, Sturdivant would have needed to work 1,239 overtime hours, or 6 hours of overtime per day, every day, seven days a week during the first 200 days of this year.

The bi-weekly 130-hour limit means that the maximum number of overtime hours an APD officer can work in one year is 1300. Any hours over and above the 130-hour bi-weekly limit require must be approved by the officer’s division commander.

An overtime spending spree  

Through the first 200 days of this year, the average APD officer has earned $5,800 in overtime, but those at the top of the list bring in far greater amounts. As of July 20, APD officers made a combined $9,098,476 of overtime pay, with 100 of those officers accounting for over a quarter of the total: $2,679,582.

Two sergeants rank behind Sturdivant for excessive overtime pay. The fourth-highest paid APD employee this year, Sergeant Ramon Rivers of APD’s Criminal Investigation’s Division, earned $63,482 in overtime pay in from Jan. 1 to July 20, on base salary of $94,949 annually. At time-and-a-half pay, Rivers would have needed to work 927 overtime hours. Sergeant Terence Peavy’s $59,218 in overtime pay would require 792 overtime hours.

Two non-supervisors round of the top five making similarly high overtime pay. Senior Police Officer Chad Alexander’s $52,390 in overtime on an annual salary of $87,518 would require 830 overtime hours in the first 200 days of 2023, and Officer Carlos Figueroa’s $50,657 on an annual salary of $79,689 would require 1,038 overtime hours.  

Each of these five officers earned more in overtime pay this year than regular pay.  

APD was authorized to spend $9,791,362 in overtime for fiscal year 2023, which ended June 31. The department spent nearly that amount in just the last six months of the fiscal year alone. For fiscal year 2024, which began July 1, APD is authorized to spend $10,331,129. If the department continues the trend set so far this year, it will spend nearly all its overtime budget for the current fiscal year by Dec. 31.

This is not the first time in recent history APD overshot its overtime budget. In fiscal year 2018, APD spent $24,123,995 on overtime, despite its budget that year of $9,128,504.

In 2018, then-City Auditor Amanda Noble conducted a performance audit for citywide overtime from 2013-2017.  The audit found that APD “paid employees more generous overtime rates than the [Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA)] requires,” and that “over 60% of sergeants earned more than 15% of their annual salary in overtime.” Additionally, the audit determined departments with the highest overtime earnings, including APD, did not have documentation for half of the overtime hours recorded in 2017.

Noble recommended APD “monitor overtime hours worked by police sergeants and ensure they comply with current policies and procedures,” and that the department follow FSLA standards.

The City Council also passed legislation in 2018 that requires Atlanta’s Chief Financial Officer to provide a quarterly report on the amount of overtime hours worked by city employees to the Finance/Executive Committee of the City Council. Additionally, APD created the Centralized Tracking Unit (COTU) to manage overtime use within the department. There is no publicly available information from COTU itself, nor are the quarterly overtime reports to the Finance/Executive Committee available.

For fiscal years 2021 and 2022, APD spent $9,274,610 and $9,702,065 respectively. Of the last three years, only 2020 — which saw the start of the Covid pandemic, months of civil unrest in response to the murder of George Floyd and killing of Rayshard Brooks, and a rash of APD sickouts – matches the overtime expenditure APD is on pace for this year.

While APD’s attrition rate continues to be a problem, at a February 27 Public Safety Committee meeting, Chief Schierbaum said that in 2022, the department saw a net loss of seven officers, in comparison to the net loss of 39 officers in 2021. It is unlikely that staffing levels are the cause of doubling of overtime in the department.  

Cop City’s hidden costs

Following the Jan. 18 joint task force raid of Intrenchment Creek Park and the proposed site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center – or “Cop City” as it is more commonly known — that saw the killing of environmental activist and forest defender Manuel Paez “Tortuguita” Terán, APD began a 24/7 security detail around the site. While the Cop City site is owned by the city of Atlanta, the property is outside of city limits and traditionally under the jurisdiction of the DeKalb County Police Department.

On Feb. 8, Fox 5 published that 30 APD officers were stationed at the site each day. Then, on Feb. 13, Fox 5 followed up the original story revealing that on some days the number of officers would double or triple.  

We have to pay for police…for anything we do. I would hope that an organization with as much money and backing as the organization that’s building that [facility], that we are treating them how we are treating our kids.

The potential cost of guarding the site drew ire from the City Council. Typically, private entities are required to pay for police officers to work security for events. Council Member Antonio Lewis expressed concern that the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), which leased the site from the city in 2021 for $10/year and is responsible for the construction of Cop City, is not paying for the security detail.

“Why do we have our officers out there,” said Lewis at a Feb. 13 public safety committee meeting, “and is this typically something we would do for a non-profit or private organization?”  

“I’ve been told we have to pay for security for a little league basketball game.” Lewis continued. “We have to pay for police…for anything we do. I would hope that an organization with as much money and backing as the organization that’s building that [facility], that we are treating them how we are treating our kids.”  

APD has never publicly provided the cost to the city for the Cop City security detail, but on Feb. 22, Fox 5 listed the costs at about $40,000 a day.  

At a Feb. 27 public safety committee meeting, Council Member Lewis asked Chief Scheirbaum, “How much money per day are we spending to provide security, do we do this for anyone else?”  

“Right now, I don’t have any numbers in front of me,” replied Scheirbaum.  

Council Member Lewis did some back of napkin math to come up with an estimated yearly cost to taxpayers. “At $40,000 per day,” said Lewis, “we’re spending $280,000 weekly. That means we’re spending $1.12 million monthly.”

With six months of security for the Cop City site in the books, the $1.2 million monthly cost looks overstated, but the security costs must be playing a significant role in the doubling of APD’s overtime spending in the first half of the year.  

While Atlanta City Council authorized on June 5 a total expenditure of $67 million for Cop City construction costs and lease payments to the APF, the hidden costs of Cop City continue to increase.  

APD did not respond to a chance to comment in time for the publication of this story.

The pay data spreadsheet is available here.

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2 responses to “Retired sergeant making bank, earning $71K of overtime in seven months  ”

  1. Stephanie R Brown Avatar
    Stephanie R Brown

    I am writing to passionately defend the compensation of Sgt. Janice Sturdivant, an exceptional individual and an invaluable pillar within the Atlanta Police Department. Sgt. Sturdivant’s dedication, commitment, and tireless efforts in supporting her fellow officers and their families go above and beyond the call of duty. Her remarkable contributions make her deserving of the recognition and compensation she receives.

    First and foremost, Sgt. Sturdivant’s work ethic is unparalleled. She sacrifices her personal time and dedicates herself almost 24 hours a day to ensure the well-being of her colleagues and their loved ones. Her availability, regardless of the hour, is a testament to her unwavering commitment to serving the police force and the community.

    Sgt. Sturdivant’s role in providing support to officers and their families during difficult times is immeasurable. Whether it’s assisting with funerals, providing peer support, or offering resources for officers to work efficiently and effectively with the citizens of Atlanta, she consistently proves herself to be an indispensable asset to the department.

    The emotional toll that Sgt. Sturdivant bears cannot be overstated. She is there to console and support the families of fallen officers, showing remarkable empathy and understanding during times of grief and sorrow. Her presence at accident scenes and the support she extends during the aftermath of tragic incidents demonstrates the depth of her dedication and care for her fellow officers and their loved ones.

    Moreover, Sgt. Sturdivant’s involvement in matters of mental health and well-being within the department is invaluable. She provides crucial support to officers who may be facing emotional challenges, contemplating suicide, or dealing with the loss of colleagues. Her constant vigilance and unwavering commitment to ensuring the mental health of her colleagues contribute significantly to the overall well-being and efficiency of the department.

    While some may argue that no amount of money can pay for what Sgt. Sturdivant does, it is essential to acknowledge that adequate compensation is a form of recognition and appreciation for her outstanding contributions. Financial acknowledgment is one way to show our gratitude and encourage her to continue the crucial work she does. Furthermore, it ensures that Sgt. Sturdivant can focus on her responsibilities without undue financial stress.

    In conclusion, Sgt. Janice Sturdivant’s dedication, compassion, and unyielding commitment make her an extraordinary asset to the Atlanta Police Department. Her selflessness and tireless efforts have undoubtedly saved lives and supported countless officers and their families. It is only fair and just that she receives the compensation she deserves, recognizing the invaluable contributions she makes to the department and the wider community.

    Thank you for taking the time to understand the significance of Sgt. Sturdivant’s work and the importance of just compensation for her efforts.

  2. […] construction site remained guarded nonstop by the Atlanta Police Department (APD), with typically 30 officers patrolling the grounds and surrounding roadways around the clock. The last time activists entered the site in […]

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