Police work hours increase due to recent homicides | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Police work hours increase due to recent homicides

Eric Heinz

Police officials in the South Lake Tahoe area have been dealing with more homicide investigations than in the last few years, which has required more working hours and overtime pay than usual.

Between July 20 and Aug. 14, Julian Acevedo, Manpreet Singh and Shirley Gordon were murdered, according to South Lake Tahoe Police Department. The three homicides in three weeks have bucked a five-year trend in the South Lake Tahoe area.

According to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Unified Crime Reporting website, from 2007 to 2011, South Lake Tahoe had three "murders and non-negligent manslaughters," with none in 2009 and 2010. Statistics were not available for 2012. Two of the murders have yet to be solved — or even procure a public announcement of a suspect's name — and one has a suspect in custody.

"There's no relation between the homicides," South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Brian Uhler said. "It doesn't seem to be one perpetrator or a group of perpetrators. We just happen to have the unfortunate occurrence of these events that statistically were out of the ordinary for us. And they all happened to come at one time."

The acts of violence have stretched the police department's resources and overtime pay, according to Lt. Brian Williams.

Numbers of average overtime payment for the department were not available, but Williams said typically in a two-week pay period, the cost of overtime during high-volume population times could be between $6,000 to $8,000 and sometimes $10,000. That does not include dispatch payments.

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According to actual figures from the department's last three overtime pay periods (starting July 19, a day before the fatal stabbing of Acevedo), the July 19 payment period was $15,000; Aug. 2 was $25,000; and Aug. 16 was $31,000.

Those figures account for the entire department and all the cases officers may be putting in for overtime, but Uhler said 75 percent of the overtime money during this time frame has been dedicated to the homicide cases.

Each overtime pay rate is different depending on the position of the respective officer.

"This doesn't account for the overtime that the outside agencies are paying to their personnel," Williams said.

Uhler said he is not letting the cost of overtime distract his department's work. He said the most important part is using the resources available to solve the crimes.

"It saves us a huge amount of money from the commitment we're getting from the agencies who have helped us," Uhler said.

About 20 detectives participated from agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recently to help with the homicide investigation effort.

Other agencies such as El Dorado County Sheriffs Office and California Highway Patrol can lend assistance if needed, he said.

"We have a very good relationship with our other agencies in the area," Uhler said.

Williams also said if surrounding areas had similar rises in crime and murder, the department would reciprocate its resources.

Some of the criminals are sought by multiple agencies at once, so it helps to keep a healthy relationship with nearby law enforcement, Williams said

"That serves our community very well," he said.

Uhler said the entire department from patrol officers to detectives has been working on the crimes.

It can be difficult to get public information released immediately, Williams said, because the officers have been occupied with multiple cases.

"We simply have to come up for air," Williams said.

Williams said during this time, there are police officers who worked 36 hours, "without any sleep."

There are three detectives in the department, and Uhler said that is a typical staff number. The chief also said there are detectives in the South Lake El Dorado Narcotics Enforcement Team who are available. However, those detectives may not be available for homicide cases.

When leaving no stone unturned to solve a crime, some sacrifices outside the department in the officers' personal lives must be made, Williams said.

"There are some cases that must be investigated that will turn out not to be a crime but you can't spare the horses and you have to throw your resources," Williams said.

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