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The Niagara Falls City Council questioned Police Superintendent John R. Chella Tuesday about his proposed $13 million budget for the department in 2005.

Under the proposal, two new patrol officers to be hired would be assigned to the Hyde Park Substation. Their salaries would be paid under a state grant of $405,000, Chella said.

Also, three positions would be cut in the Traffic and Youth Aid departments.

"We're asking for two additional officers who would be totally dedicated to the substation . . . for at least three years and not take any off the street," Chella said.

Chella said that the last time full-time officers were hired they were assigned to other duties, such as court proceedings.

On another police budget issue, Council Chairman Charles A. Walker asked why projected overtime costs total $668,740.

"The last (union) contract calls for (a minimum number of) captains and lieutenants to be on call at all times," Chella said.

"A contract that gives you more flexibility to do things would minimize on overtime."

The department exceeded its overtime costs by 130 percent in 2003, and many departments have exceeded their budgets this year, as well.

Chella said one death in the department and vacancies led to the problem. He also noted that officers undergoing training are paid overtime.

He said that because of the training, the department was able to qualify for state accreditation.

"I can't emphasize how important training is for police officers," Walker said.

The city also pays all officers 15 minutes of overtime each day for lining up before their shifts begin and two hours of pay for each phone call they receive at home.

"I understand public safety, but when you see this, this is what residents complain about," Walker said.

That 15-minute lineup helps shift changes go smoothly and updates officers about the day's events, Administrative Capt. John P. DeMarco said.

"It's beneficial to keep them abreast of what's going on," he said. "It's worth it."

Council members suggested future contract negotiations might focus on reducing overtime costs.


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