I-Team: Who pays for safety? - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Who pays for safety?

Posted: Updated:

A budget crunch has cost-saving measures in the cross-hairs at the Baton Rouge Police Department.

For months, top brass has been cutting corners to save every penny they can. Then, in just one day, a single event chews up thousands of tax dollars.

Nearly 1,200 concert goers headed into the River Center downtown Sunday, Sept. 9, for the "Goodlife Summer Fest" event, a concert showcasing several local and regional rap and R&B artists from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The lineup included Kevin Gates, Young Ready, Level, Mista, Foxx and many more taking center stage inside the River Center.

Outside, it was a different scene: police cruisers on River Road from North Blvd. down to Government Street, officers on horseback, the K9 unit, a command post and even a helicopter - all sending a strong message at a hefty price to the taxpayer.

"$15,000 roughly in overtime," said Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White. "The police department based on the number of people we anticipated being there, made sure we had adequate police protection."

The roughly $15,000 came out of the police department's overtime budget just days after Hurricane Isaac put a big dent in the overtime budget.

In all, 40 officers worked outside for a total of 286 overtime hours. At an average cost of about $40 an hour, city police paid out $11,440 just in overtime pay. That does not include the cost for the command post or the helicopter.

"I could have used it somewhere else, but you can't put a price on a human life," said Chief White.

River Center's General Manager Todd Mitchell agreed.

"Over $10,000 was spent in security for the event," said Mitchell.

That $10,000 was spent on security inside the event though. Up to 30 Baton Rouge Police officers, worked extra duty inside. All were paid by the concert promoter.

Mitchell said he met with city police just days before the concert to discuss security, at which time Chief White said he felt it necessary for the additional patrols and presence outside. By then, Mitchell said it was too late to ask the promoter to include outside security costs into the ticket price.

So should the River Center pick up the $15,000 tab?

"We have never reimbursed before and like I said, some shows, they had significant presence outside. Other shows, they don't, but we're always reimbursed for expenses inside the building, and that's tax dollars too," said Mitchell.

"Do you feel the promoter should pick up the tab outside as well?" asked Chawla.

"I think there could be a mutual agreement on what those expenses should be or shouldn't be," said Mitchell.

In cases such as LSU football games where Baton Rouge Police Officers provide some security, the department is reimbursed.

"We send them a bill at the end of football season, and then they reimburse the police department," said Chief White.

Mitchell said reimbursements are something they could look into - especially if the police department and promoter discuss the idea well ahead of time.

There were no major turn of events or arrests at Sunday's concert, just three simple marijuana arrests.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow