Target 8: Columbia Police Overtime
COLUMBIA - "Really? That's extremely surprising," said Ellen LoCurto-Martinez, chairwoman of the Citizens Police Review Board. That's what she said when KOMU showed her how much money one Columbia Police Officer is making. LoCurto-Martinez has been on the Citizens Police Review Board since its formation in November of 2009.
KOMU: "Is this the best way for the police department to spend its money?"
LoCurto-Martinez: "That's a good question."
That question brought Officer Mark Brotemarkle, a veteran of the Columbia Police Department into the spotlight.
KOMU 8 obtained salary and overtime pay data from the City of Columbia from 2005 to 2010 and Brotemarkle stood out. In 2008, he racked up more than 230 hours of overtime. That bumped his $80,000 patrolman salary up to six figures: $109,186. He made more than any other officers-including his boss at the time, Police Chief Randy Boehm.
But Chief Ken Burton, Brotemarkle's current boss, doesn't think this is abnormal.
BURTON: "This is not unusual. This happens in departments all across the country."
KOMU: "For an officer to make more than a chief?"
BURTON: "Oh, sure."
KOMU: "For an officer to make six figures?"
BURTON: "Oh, sure."
BURTON: "Both. Check into it. I think you'll find it happens more often than you would believe."
KOMU took Burton's advice and called eight police departments in midwestern cities the same size as Columbia. Their reactions?
"That's quite unusual," from Lawrence, Kansas.
"I don't think our budget could handle that," from College Station, Texas.
We heard similar statements all across the region: "that's crazy," "very strange," and "that would be an anomaly."
We called Officer Brotemarkle, but he declined all of our requests for an on-camera interview about his pay. "I'd be glad to sit down with any citizen who wants to politely ask," he told KOMU. But when we told him over the phone how his salary compares to the rest of the department he said "I find that surprising."
Officer Brotemarkle's pay decreased last year, but he took on a second job working night security for the Columbia Housing Authority. He works 20 hours a week there, all paid for by the Housing Authority. Twenty hours is the Columbia Police Department's limit for off-duty employment with another organization or agency and it was Chief Burton who approved those extra hours.
KOMU: "Do you think it's safe for an officer like Brotemarkle to be working that much overtime?"
BURTON: "You know, I question that myself."
KOMU: "So do you ever worry about officers like him?"
BURTON: "Well sure. You have to. But I think these are adults...while you're not their parent, you have to look out for the department."
You might recognize the name "Brotemarkle." Officer Mark Brotemarkle is the man involved in the viral video out of Hickman High School from 2008. When we asked Burton if he thought Brotemarkle's overtime had anything to do with what happened at Hickman High, he said it would be, quote, "a real stretch."