by CHRIS PAPST
BALTIMORE (WBFF) — A Project Baltimore investigation finds a Baltimore City School police officer is on pace to earn more than his annual salary in overtime, three years in a row. City Schools approved that money, and sources say the FBI took notice.
“This begs an investigation,” said Adam Andrzejewski, founder of OpenTheBooks.com, a government watchdog organization that tracks public spending.
“Massive spikes in overtime certainly raise red flags,” Andrzejewski said.
Lawrence Smith is a Baltimore City school police officer and a seven-time state champion head football coach for Dunbar High School. He’s also currently under investigation by the FBI, sources say is partially over payroll irregularities.
Through a public records request, WBFF obtained a payroll database of Smith’s overtime earnings. WBFF can see his overtime hours per paycheck going back to 2019, and the data is hard to believe.
In 2020, Smith earned $67,975 in overtime, more than his annual salary of $62,542. On one paycheck, he logged 116.5 hours of overtime in two weeks. If you average it out, that means he worked nearly 8.5 hours of overtime, every day, for two weeks straight.
Project Baltimore found between August and September of 2020, Smith recorded 300 hours of overtime over six weeks. If you add that to his normal workweek, Smith says he was at work, on average, nearly 13 hours a day, seven days a week, for 42 straight days. That’s a feat he nearly repeated the following year, in 2021, when he logged 297 hours of overtime over a six-week period between June and July.
“To the extent that Lawrence Smith’s public employment is for the public good, he should be lauded,” said Andrzejewski. “What you’ve outlined here is a troubling pattern.”
In 2021, Smith had a big year. He made more than any other City Schools police officer and $30,000 more than the City Schools police chief. How did he do it? By bringing home $94,484 in overtime, making his total earnings that year $167,986.
“That’s a tremendous amount for any employee within the Baltimore City school system to be working, just in gross hours. Furthermore, it’s a lot of position power invested in just one person,” said Andrzejewski.
But Smith didn’t always work that much overtime. According to City Schools records, the average school police officer makes about $18,000 in overtime a year. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, Smith earned less than the average. But starting in 2020, his overtime began to skyrocket. So, what happened?
“So, what I would say about Detective Smith is this, he is a unicorn in our police department,” said Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the FOP.
Baltimore City Schools did not provide an explanation for Smith’s overtime, but Boatwright is not surprised that it’s a lot of hours.
“He is one of one,” Boatwright explained. “He has a responsibility that no one else in our department has.”
Boatwright says, about five years ago, Smith took on more responsibility as a liaison to other police departments and custodian of the camera systems.
“And so, if there's a homicide that occurs near a school, and there could be footage where a suspect is seen getting away, a getaway car, a getaway driver, and he is the person that will be looking into those types of situations,” Boatwright explained.
According to Boatwright, Smith’s role requires him to be on call 24 hours a day, and with Baltimore’s crime rate, the overtime adds up. It also goes through an approval process.
“The site supervisor or the area supervisor for the night verifies that the officers were actually indeed at the overtime and worked the overtime,” he said. “The overtime slips are then submitted to that supervisor, who then submits it to a member of our command staff.”
But when an employee is making far more than his annual salary in overtime, Andrzejewski questions whether it’s the best use of public dollars.
“It’s a misallocation of public resources,” Andrzejewski said. “For that kind of money, the public could have an extra resource officer or two.”
He says, at the very least, an audit should be conducted.
“Why is one person invested with all of this authority, all of this control, and all of this expertise within Baltimore City Public Schools?” Andrzejewski asked. “Auditors need to take a look at this situation.”