Police Commissioner Bill Evans defended a Boston police detective who made over $403,000 in overtime pay last year, as part of a controversial and age-old system that rewards officers for unworked hours.

“It’s a contractual thing,” Evans said in an interview with Boston Public Radio Thursday. “That’s been a practice before I came on the job, and I know for the public it doesn’t look good…but there’s not a whole lot [we can do] unless we go back to the bargaining table and change it.”

According to the police union contract, officers who work detail shifts or testify in court must be paid for a minimum of four hours, no matter how long the shift actually lasted.

Boston Police Detective Waiman Lee’s base salary was $92,515, and he did not work 674 of the hours for which he was paid.  

According to Evans, Lee’s role as a domestic violence officer had a lot to do with his exorbitant overtime pay.

“Most of our domestic violence detectives, every day, are in court,” Evans said. “They investigate, they follow up with the victims, they do a lot of advocacy with the victim advocates, so it’s unfortunately too busy a job in the city of Boston. He works his regular shift, and for the most part, he’s in court.”

Evans, who was once the top earner in the BPD as the Police Captain in District 4, said he made much more money than he does now as commissioner, mostly from overtime in court.

“When I went to court, whether I was there for 3 hours and 55 minutes, I got 4 hours,” Evans said. “A lot of times you go there, and right off the bat, they say, 'oh, the defense isn’t ready, the drugs aren’t ready, and if you’re only there for ten minutes, you get four hours.'”

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Evans continued. “Every weekend was parades, 81 home games at Fenway Park.”

If that sounds like fun, Evans maintained, it’s still a long day.

“When you leave your house at 7 o’clock in the morning, and then at 4 o’clock you’re going up to Fenway Park, and then you’re getting home at midnight every night … I worked very hard,” he said. “That’s long gone.”

To hear Police Commissioner Bill Evans’ full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.