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Overtime Pay Prompts Police Reassignments

Budget wrangling between the Police Department and city officials has heightened since city administrators decided to shift 19 police officers temporarily from their special assignments to patrol.

The aim of the move, to be in effect June 15 through Sept. 7, is to control costs, deputy city administrator Richard Barnard said.

“We looked at our budget for 1995-96, and the figures for the public safety budget showed that we were going to face a $900,000 deficit,” Barnard said.

According to city administrators, the transfer will reduce overtime costs. Officers who will be redeployed to patrol will come from assignments such as narcotics, training and community task forces.

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But members of the police union say that the redeployment will hurt public safety and put a crunch on an already understaffed department.

“This department is being gutted,” said Richard Wright, president of the Huntington Beach Police Officers’ Assn. “You’ve got guys who don’t want to work overtime, but they have to because their support is not there.”

City management says that administrators have consistently placed public safety as their top priority, but they are in a tough financial position.

“Throughout the state and county, fiscally things are very tight,” Barnard said. “The cities are left holding the bag to bring safety to the residents with limitations.”

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