Settlement reached in K-9 officer overtime lawsuit

June 16, 2010 4:27:53 PM PDT
A settlement has marked the end of a lawsuit between the city of Houston and K-9 officers' overtime pay.

This is a problem that faces K-9 police units all around the country. Just how do you compensate police officers for the time they spend just caring for those dogs when they are home? The City of Houston said it's finally reached a resolution.

Diego is willing to sniff out any illegal drugs no matter how much his police partner is paid. But now, every canine officer will be getting a little bit more in their paychecks. It's all part of a lawsuit settlement between the city and its 50 canine officers.

"This is a piece of a police equipment, but it is a living breathing animal. It's not like a motorcycle or something else that you take home and let sit there and maybe take care of it by some minor maintenance," Houston Police Union attorney Chad Hoffman said.

So what did the two sides agree to?

Officers will get a shift adjustment. They spend seven hours a day at work, and an hour a day at home caring for the dogs. In addition, they'll get an hour and half overtime for care during holidays and weekends.

The new city attorney, Dave Feldman, says it's a great settlement.

"You have to come up with some agreement as to how much time is necessary to care for a dog, on weekends and holidays," Feldman said.

The issue isn't new.

Back in 1995, the city settled a similar lawsuit brought about by canine officers at that time. But the formula didn't allow for inflation, and the new settlement should satisfy officers and their police K-9 partners.

"The settlement, it truly is just to compensate the officers for the time they spend at home caring for the animals," Hoffman said.

Both sides say had this lawsuit gone to trial and the city of Houston lost, it would have to fork over possibly millions of dollars in back-pay for many officers. But as it stands now, the city doesn't have to compensate those officers for time they've already spent caring for the dogs.

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