City Councilman David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), yesterday asked the District of Columbia auditor to investigate the police department's practice of paying men overtime to paint offices and perform other work not related to official duties.
Clarke, in a letter to auditor Matthew S. Watson, said he was "concerned . . . that personnel are being used for these purposes while at the same time (the department is) claiming that any reduction of sworn personnel might result in an increase in crime."
Watson said late yesterday that his office will look into the overtime and "will have some substantive response (for Clarke) in the near future, say five or six weeks."
The Washington Post recently reported that police officers and civilian employees were being paid thousands of dollars in overtime to paint, panel with wood and scrub clean the offices of high ranking officials.
City Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson, through a spokesman, said yesterday that his department would be happy to cooperate in such an audit.
Jefferson told a congressional subcommittee on Tuesday that using officers on overtime for maintenance and remodeling is "much cheaper" than paying other agencies of the city government to do the same work. He also said that he was nevertheless putting a stop to the practice "because of all the publicity" about it.
Asked to amplify on those remarks, a spokesman said yesterday that the chief was concerned about "some negative response from some members of the community and from questions raised in the media."
"There was some question about professionalism, about using a policeman to paint. It's like having a lawyer do plumbing," the spokesman said.
Clarke, in asking for an examination of the use of overtime for all non-law enforcement work, also requested a statement on the cost efficiency of such a practice.
"If it is your conclusion that the city saves money by having departmental personnel repairing and painting offices, I would appreciate your making recommendations as to how such a program may be implemented by the departments," Clarke wrote to the auditor.
The city's Department of General Services normally handles remodeling and painting for the police department. Officials of that agency, given the cost in overtime that police paid for one job, estimated that the DGS charge would have been about the same.
In the last four years a number of high-ranking police officials have had their offices paneled with wood, at least in part by paying overtime to subordinates.
Inspector Roland W. Perry, the police department's finance chief, said he authorized overtime to have his own office areas repainted, partitioned, paneled with wood and scrubbed clean in order to improve morale.
Because of the workload at DGS and the length of time it takes that agency to respond, rank and file policemen have often repainted their own offices, but usually during duty hours or by volunteering to come in on days offs.