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Press Release Audit Highlights Issues Related to Overtime at Massachusetts Environmental Police

Inadequate technology and lax management leave the agency open to abuse
For immediate release:
4/21/2020
  • Office of the State Auditor

Media Contact for Audit Highlights Issues Related to Overtime at Massachusetts Environmental Police

Noah Futterman

An image of an MEP truck.

BostonIn an audit released today of the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP), State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump found that the lack of an effective system for tracking time and attendance as well as historically lax management leave the agency open to abuse.

“MEP needs to improve its technology and management accountability to ensure that hours worked are more rigorously tracked and overtime approvals and allocations are more rigorously accounted for,” Bump said. “We found many instances of poor record-keeping, including undocumented overtime approvals, as well as management practices incompatible with both wage and hour laws and the collective bargaining agreement. The potential for abuse is amplified by the agency’s permitting of shift-splitting, a practice unique among state law enforcement agencies precisely because of its potential for manipulation in order to enhance overtime earnings. This is not the first time that the agency has been called out for its lax practices. I hope this audit helps ensure it is the last time.”

In the audit, which examined the period of July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2018, Bump’s office identified problems with MEP’s dispatch system, which is used to track an officer’s work shift or daily time and attendance. Auditors found 1,961 instances in the dispatch records of officers working more hours than allowed in a day. In more than 130 instances, officers remained logged in from 100 hours to 369 hours without logging out or updating their duty status. MEP pointed to technological issues as a primary source of the problem. The audit notes this deficiency leaves MEP with limited ability to effectively track the hours officers work.

The audit also found officers worked 1,834 split shifts in which they earned overtime, but did not receive properly documented approval to do so. Split shifts occur when an officer interrupts his or her regularly scheduled duties to work a paid detail or overtime, with an understanding that the officer will return afterward to complete required hours. It is uncommon for other statewide law enforcement agencies—including the Massachusetts State Police—to allow split shifts. The audit found five additional instances in which officers worked regular overtime without properly documented approval.

MEP is an agency within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. MEP is responsible for protecting the environment and natural resources of the commonwealth through enforcement, education, and public outreach. The agency has six bureaus: the Coastal Bureau, the Inland Enforcement Bureau, the Boat and Recreation Safety Bureau, the Environmental Crimes Bureau, the Marine Theft Bureau, and the Boat and Recreation Vehicle Registration and Titling Bureau. During the audit period, MEP had 119 employees, 85 of whom were law enforcement officers. For fiscal year 2018, the agency received $9,776,081 in state appropriations. In FY18, the agency paid $633,800 in overtime. 

The full audit report is available here.

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Media Contact for Audit Highlights Issues Related to Overtime at Massachusetts Environmental Police

Office of the State Auditor 

The Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump (OSA) conducts audits, investigations, and studies to promote accountability and transparency, improve performance, and make government work better.
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