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A jury has found in favor of the city of San Diego in a lawsuit brought by the Police Officers’ Association that claimed San Diego police officers were owed payment for thousands of hours of overtime that they were never paid.

The lawsuit claimed that officers are owed payment for hours they spent before their shifts loading their patrol cars, checking e-mails, reading Police Department communications and performing other work-related tasks.

The jury was asked, among several other questions, to rule on whether the tasks performed by the police officers meet the definition of “work” contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act. All eight jurors responded “no” to that question, said attorney Paul Cooper, who was the city’s representative in the jury trial.

“Our position has always been that we have always paid our officers legitimate overtime,” said Cooper. “We pay out $15 to $18 million each year in overtime.”

POA President Brian Marvel, who took over from Bill Nemec about six weeks ago, played down the loss.

“Even though the loss of the FLSA lawsuit is disheartening to our members, the benefit of taking this issue to court was the ability to raise these past violations to a level where Department policies and practices were changed to protect our member’s FLSA labor rights,” Marvel wrote in an e-mail statement. “These changes have led to a more fair and equitable manner in compensating our members in accordance with FLSA regulations.”

The lawsuit was one of several launched in 2005, a particularly tense time in police-city relations. That year, the SDPD reached an impasse with the city in its labor negotiations, something that would happen again in 2006. In 2005 police officers were also asked to begin contributing more to their retirement plans as the scope of the city’s financial crisis started to become clear.

Several of the other POA lawsuits have also ended in wins for the city. In a two-week period in late August and early September last year the POA lost two high-profile lawsuits against the city in quick succession.

WILL CARLESS

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