The Sun Sentinel's "Short Shifted" investigation has prompted South Florida elected leaders to take action to make sure cops can no longer leave their cities early and still collect a full day's pay.
One mayor went so far as to say it may be time to rethink take-home cars — a prized perk for police officers.
Angry residents complained that some cops have gotten away with too much for too long, and change is overdue.
A Davie councilman said he'll ask for weekly GPS reports on the locations of police cruisers in his town so he can personally make sure officers are where they should be.
The mayor of Pembroke Pines said he'll examine a practice that lets cops save their breaks and go home early.
In Plantation, where some officers were leaving the city before their shifts ended almost every day, the mayor ordered the police chief to evaluate the cost and benefits of take-home cars. A majority of the City Council said they would consider changes.
The response follows a Sun Sentinel investigative series last week that found cops from Plantation to Miami skipping out of work early, an abuse that some residents said would get most people fired.
"This would not be tolerated in other professions," said Davie resident Shari Shine, a former teacher who works with special needs children. "If you are sworn to uphold the law, then you'd better be abiding by the law. Show up on time, leave on time and do what we're paying you to do."
The Sun Sentinel reviewed police payroll and SunPass toll records and found 39 officers from six South Florida agencies left their cities before their shifts ended or after working less than a full day at least 20 percent of the time from late 2010 through early 2012.
In Plantation, toll records showed 11 officers outside the city's borders when they were scheduled for duty. They included a father and son who had made it to a toll booth in Palm Beach County — 30 miles away — by the time their shift ended on most of their workdays.
Plantation Mayor Diane Veltri Bendekovic said the short-shifting officers "put a blemish on our entire department." But the mayor said she was satisfied with the steps taken by police brass after they learned of abuses from the Sun Sentinel earlier this year. Police commanders there are keeping tabs on officers through GPS and randomly calling squads back to the station at the end of a shift.
At a City Council meeting Wednesday, Plantation Police Chief Howard Harrison said he could not explain many of the early departures.
"Am I saying all those incidents were legitimate? No," he said. "I'm as disappointed as each and every one of you are, but I can assure you we've taken measures to correct this in the future."
In Davie, the Sun Sentinel found a $120,000-a-year police major regularly leaving the town after less than an eight-hour day. He announced his retirement two days after the newspaper shared its findings with a city councilman, and Mayor Judy Paul said she is confident the problem was not more widespread.
"What we have now is some built-in safeguards because we have the GPS systems on all the cars," the mayor said. ''We always know where they are."
Davie Councilman Bryan Caletka said he will ask the chief to provide him with weekly reports of the GPS data so he can check on officers' whereabouts.
In Pembroke Pines, Mayor Frank Ortis said he would examine a practice that allows officers to take their breaks at the end of a shift and go home early — the reason police leaders gave for two officers tracked at toll booths outside the city before their shifts ended.
"I'm certainly going to look at it," the mayor said. "Everybody should work their full shift."
The police chief said last week he found no abuses and that supervisors also allow cops to leave early in return for working extra hours, a practice Ortis said he supports because it saves the city on overtime costs.