At the recommendation of auditing firm Ernst & Young, Detroit plans to require its police officers to punch time clocks at the beginning and end of their shifts. 

Time clocks have already been installed in most city buildings and police commands. The plan, which is slated to launch in March, is unpopular with police officers, many who are arguing that the nature of their jobs do not allow them to easily punch in and out.

“A lot of times, I’ll go straight from my house to a crime scene,” Gnatek said. “Now, if I get called in the middle of the night, am I going to have to stop at my office to punch in first? It’s kind of ridiculous.” “Everybody at work is questioning this,” said Detroit police officer Jeffry Sklar. “There are a lot of people in the department who start at odd times. It just doesn’t make sense to have police officers punching in time clocks.”

The city of Detroit, Michigan, filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy on July 18, 2013. During the city’s bankruptcy proceedings, it was decided that Detroit’s antiquated payroll system needed an overhaul. “We were operating with a 40-year-old payroll system,” said Detroit Human Resources Director Denise Starr.“Everything was being done manually, and there were several payroll errors as a result. It’s all about getting people paid properly. Band-Aid after Band-Aid was put on the old system, and it just doesn’t work anymore.”

Despite strong opposition, time clocks have been successfully implemented in cities like Atlanta, Georgia and Dayton, Ohio. According to Atlanta police spokeswoman Elizabeth Espy, the time clocks presented no major problem for her officers. “Some employees can clock in with their phones,” she said. Detroit’s new time clocks rely on thumb recognition software, according to Assistant Police Chief James White, who helped draft the policy covering the time clocks’ use.

Starr adds, “It’s an automated cloud system. We haven’t done training for police yet. We’re going to meet with the department and employees, to tell them how to punch in, record vacation and comp time.”

Police and city officials say that while there are bugs to be worked out, their system allows for the use of clocks and phone calls necessary to override the system in special cases and that with the help of their new software, officers will get paid for all the work they do. The proposed policy change will go to the Board of Police Commissioners for review, according to White. If the proposal is rejected, a new policy would have to be drafted.

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