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Police officers stand by during a protest in Lincoln Park on June 3, 2020. Lawyers for two Chicago police officers say the city owes about $165 million to cops and supervisors because the city miscalculated the overtime they were paid for over a decade.

Manuel Martinez

Chicago cops say the city owes them more than $165 million in overtime dispute

Chicago Police Department officers and supervisors are owed about $165 million because the city miscalculated the overtime that they were paid for over a decade, according to federal court records from a case filed on behalf of the cops.

More than two years have gone by since a federal judge ruled in favor of the two plaintiffs – a former police union official and a CPD sergeant – in the overtime case filed in Chicago in 2015.

But the city and the lawyers who filed the case continue to fight in federal court over how to calculate the amount owed to cops affected by the overtime problems, court records show.

In a recent filing in U.S. District Court, the lawyers for the plaintiffs said the original estimate for what the cops are due was about $52.1 million. But they said in the Dec. 8 filing that the final bill had skyrocketed to $164,735,255 over time, while “damages are continuing to accrue at least at the rate of $862,889 a month.”

“The City is paying a dear price for the failure to bring this litigation to a close,” wrote Paul Geiger, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Geiger declined to comment for this story.

A spokesperson for the city of Chicago’s Law Department said Friday, “The matter is in litigation and the City has no comment.”

But one of the plaintiffs in the case, retired cop William Dougherty, told WBEZ he has a blunt message for the city of Chicago.

“Take care of the guys that are out there working for you,” Dougherty said. “It’s nothing new. It’s not hard to ask them to pay guys what they’re entitled to, and they knew they were skirting the federal [law], so just pay these guys off and move on. Cut your losses. It’s costing taxpayers more money than it possibly should.”

Dougherty, who was first vice president of the police officers’ union, retired in 2017. But during the final years that he was a cop, he and many other CPD employees worked overtime as part of the city’s Violence Reduction Initiative. The program was intended to concentrate public safety resources in high crime areas on Chicago’s South and West Sides, with officers being reassigned temporarily from their regular units.

Based on what he learned in his 12 years as a union official, Dougherty says, he realized the way his overtime pay was being calculated violated federal wage law, so he contacted Geiger and provided him with documents.

Dougherty and a sergeant, Anargyros Kereakes, became the plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed on behalf of all rank-and-file officers, sergeants and lieutenants who were impacted by the city’s overtime mistake.

U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in November 2020.

But the cops now allege the attorneys for the city have repeatedly sought to delay having to pay up for their court defeat.

In his Dec. 8 filing in federal court, Geiger wrote, “The parties have met and conferred five times since the September 23 status conference. Those conferences have been almost completely non-productive.”

Geiger also wrote that the city “rejected virtually all aspects” of a proposal from the plaintiffs, and he asked the court to impose “deadlines to be met by the City” to bring the case to a close.

“In a case that is more than seven years old, where the City has made at least thirteen written requests for extensions of time and the Plaintiffs have made none, the establishment of strict deadlines is essential,” Geiger wrote.

The city has been represented in the case by outside counsel from the Laner Muchin law firm, court records show.

Dougherty, the retired officer, said the way the city has approached the case since its defeat in court has been insulting to officers.

“They’re all working all this overtime, which means time away from family, time away from your kids,” he said. “We went years in front of the judge and then finally, when we won, now they’re fighting about how much they owe. It’s really not fair to the guys that are out there.”

Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team. Follow him on Twitter @dmihalopoulos.

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