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After arrest, Wauwatosa police continue work on Sebena case

Overtime hit $53,000 in eight days after officer was found

Feb. 7, 2013

In the eight days following the shooting of Wauwatosa Police Officer Jennifer Sebena, the Wauwatosa Police Department spent $53,000 on overtime, in addition to regular paid time, and long hours from management personnel who don't get paid extra for working extra hours.

All of it on one case.

And it's not over yet.

"Any time you have a homicide case, and then when you add the high-profile nature of it, it is not business as usual," said Captain Jeff Sutter. "It certainly changes the game. We're not built to do those things on a regular basis."

Sutter, who doesn't qualify for overtime pay, said he worked eight 19-hour days in a row immediately after the shooting.

"I'm not unusual here," he said. "People don't understand all that goes into it. There are just a ton of things that go into it. You don't just go there and say, 'Oh, this is what happened,' and it's done and over."

Complex results

For police, a homicide is rarely just an open and shut case.

"I mean, it's a complex situation, and complex situations usually have complex results," he said.

Capt. Dale Weiss said overtime spending on the case has continued and will continue, although at a decreased rate. About $9,000 has been spent in overtime pay on the case since the first of the year.

In the months to come, "a lot of it will depend on whether or not it goes to trial," Weiss said. "That's when we could incur significant additional overtime costs."

The police budget is sensitive to unusual events, Weiss said.

"Our budget is able to absorb some costs related to significant events, but obviously not a huge amount," he said.

The last time an officer was shot was such an event, he said.

"That's when we incurred significant amounts of overtime, and we had to make adjustments back then, too."

Officer Abby Pavlik was shot in the side investigating a burglary Dec. 13, 2009. She survived and continues to serve.

Sutter said the investigation is not close to finished.

"Any potential alibi-type information has to be run down," he said. "Anything that could potentially be related to a defense presentation, they have to run down leads on that. They have to look at every possible angle and they'll be doing things all the way through the trial."

Every homicide case is special, he said.

"It's got nothing to do with a police officer. Any homicide trial, they'll be running down investigative leads and tips all the way through the trial itself, just to make sure they don't leave anything uncovered."

A lot of the work is driven by the prosecutor, he said.

"It's typically things that are just really involved and detailed, tedious," he said. For example, looking through "every bit of phone records they can find" and paper trails of various kinds.

"Oftentimes the prosecutor will say, 'Hey I need you to run this down, I need you to run that down.' They'll be doing this for months. Certainly not to the extent that we were in the initial weeks, but there'll be investigation going on for months."

Memorial fund

The Wauwatosa Peace Officers Association continues collecting donations to help the family of Jennifer Sebena defray costs related to her death.

"The fund is initially set up - as is very customary and it's very humbling - people outpour with support, and cash and money, and it's basically set up to manage that, because people are very gracious, and it's just kind of a way to keep track of it," said Luke Vetter, president of the union and a patrol officer.

He said the fund was intended to "to help the family pay for and defer any costs that may come out of this."

A gift to the family will also be made, and the union will "hopefully be working with her family to create some kind of memorial, as well, to her," he said.

Vetter said he did not know the current balance.

Donations may be made out to the "Officer Jen Sebena Memorial Fund" and can be delivered to Focus Credit Union branches. Branches are located at 3180 N. 124th St., Suite A, Wauwatosa, WI 53222; 1530 N. 68th St., Wauwatosa, WI 53213; and N88 W14930 Main St., Menomonee Falls, WI 53051.

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