Chief Michael Soelberg

Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg

Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg got $3.6 million to tie his department over through June to cover mostly overtime that included stationing cops at council meetings during the controversial Ranch light-industrial project discussions.

Council without comment approved Soelberg’s ask on the May 2 consent agenda. According to the chief, his department would be in the red by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Most of the additional funding – $2.98 million – will go toward overtime pay, “which has consistently been well above the yearly budgeted amount,” according to Soelberg’s report to council.

Factors that also drove up overtime included increased workload, staffing shortages in critical sworn and civilian positions, special events such as Gilbert Days. Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, the Super Bowl in Glendale and one additional pay period falling on the last day of the fiscal year.

“Between the dates of Feb. 8 – 12, 2023, the Gilbert Police Department assisted Scottsdale PD with security details at and around the Waste Management Open golf tournament,” police spokeswoman Brenda Carrasco explained in an email. “During this same time, our SWAT Team was on standby for the East Valley as other East Valley agencies were assisting with the Super Bowl in Glendale.

“In order to provide for the safety and security for those attending, these two large-scale events required the assistance of nearly every law enforcement agency in Maricopa County.”

Soelberg also cited “prolonged security” at the municipal building due to Morrison Ranch residents showing up in force over a proposed massive light industrial project.

Carasco said the cost for that security detail provided over the Morrison Ranch issue in March was at a cost of $5,400.

Part of the extra funding also will cover standby pay to ensure that employees who work in the investigative units respond to a crime scene or fatal traffic collision during off hours, according to Soelberg.

As a cost-saving measure, the department’s investigative units don’t provide 24-hour coverage and work Monday through Friday.

If an emergency occurs, they respond on a callout basis and up until mid-Fiscal Year 2023, employees from various units were on a rotational standby, every day of the year.

Gilbert Police pays one hour of standby at the rate of 1.5 times the normal hourly rate, 365 days a year to 23 staff members.

“Without compensating the employees to be on standby status 365 days a year, there is a risk that they will not be available or willing to respond when an emergency occurs, while they are off duty,” Soelberg said.

The remaining $3.6 million will cover the following expenses:

• $286,770 for auto parts, supplies, fuel and increased fleet rates

• $150,000 for standard-issue uniforms, supplies and equipment. The original budget allocated $750 to equip each sworn officer but the actual costs are closer to $1,750 per person, according to Soelberg.

The chief said this area has encountered supplies, equipment, material and vendor scarcity, supply-chain disruptions, and staffing level increases all lending themselves to increased costs.

• $127,830 for ballistic vests.

• $37,790 for leased vehicles for the Special Assignment Unit and the Drug Enforcement Unit for field operations. Vehicle-related expenses have increased astronomically over the last few years due to COVID-19 shut-downs, car rental inventory levels, supply chain interruptions, shortages of labor and materials, as well as fuel costs, according to Soelberg.

• $15,000 for blankets for detainees at the Gilbert Chandler Unified Holding Facility. According to the chief, the average cost per month and expected expense through the end of the year for the required 45 cases of blankets is about $2,300 a month.

• $22,300 for medical reviews. The department typically budgets $1,000 a year for mandatory medical retirement reviews. This year the department saw two employees medically retire and possible three more will require medical retirement reviews before June 30.

• $9,500 in court reimbursements to Detective Michael Bishop, who retired in June 2022. Bishop “played a critical role in an investigation and arrest during a homicide investigation” of Mark Eric Ponsati in 2017.

A jury in March found Ponsati guilty of second-degree murder of his wife, Sherri Ponsati. Bishop testified in court and sat through much of the proceedings. The court reimbursement was an unbudgeted and unanticipated expense.