LSU PD paid $1.2M in overtime last year; chief set to retire

LSU Police Chief Lawrence Rabalais (Source: LSU)
LSU Police Chief Lawrence Rabalais (Source: LSU)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB/WVUE) - An ongoing Raycom Media investigation into overtime pay within the LSU Police Department shows an 80 person staff accumulated $1.2 million in overtime pay last year.

The university confirmed Friday that LSU Police Chief Lawrence Rabalais will retire effective July 5. A source close to the department says Rabalais was forced out. When asked if the retirement was voluntary, an LSU spokesman said he could not comment on personnel matters.

"Our policy is to not comment on personnel matters, but there have been no terminations at the police department," said spokesman Ernie Ballard.

"We will begin a national search for his permanent successor and put together plans for a transition plan in the near future," Ballard added. "Until an interim chief is named, Maj. Bart Thompson will oversee administrative and operational matters relating to LSUPD."

An LSU spokesman declined to comment on whether the Raycom Media investigation into overtime pay has any connection to Rabalais' sudden retirement.

In both 2015 and 2016, Rabalais was paid $127,841.04 for his position as LSU Police Chief.

The records obtained by Raycom Media into overtime pay within the LSU Police Department show that two LSU police captains made more than Chief Rabalais did in both 2015 and 2016 after working hundreds of hours of overtime. In 2016, one of those captains made $64,837.38 in overtime while the other made $61,798.40 in overtime pay, records show.

In 2015, another LSU police officer made more in overtime pay than his actual base pay, records show. The officer made $56,167 in overtime, with a base pay of $51,289, according to the records.

LSU provided the following information regarding LSU police overtime:

Most LSU police officers are "classified" employees and are eligible for overtime. (The police chief, however, is non-classified, or professional, staff, and is NOT eligible for overtime.) The officers' base pay is paid with state funds, but overtime paid to officers is not necessarily paid with state money.

Keep in mind that (like other law enforcement agencies) LSU police work 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, as campus safety is of the utmost importance to us. We have about 5,000 students who live on campus, and some 40,000 people overall in the LSU community. And because we have numerous sporting events, theater events, concerts, art shows, etc., on campus, we also have hundreds of thousands (and by some estimates, over a million) visitors to campus each year. So obviously, we need police on duty at all times, including holidays.

Some of the events at which officers have worked overtime include: LSU football games, baseball games, basketball games, softball games, track and field events, soccer matches, gymnastics meets and other campus athletic events, totaling more than 130 events on campus in a typical year; Bayou Country Superfest, a 3-day music festival held in Tiger Stadium for the past several years; the 2016 flood event in Baton Rouge (LSU will be applying for reimbursement from FEMA to offset some of these expenses), which was a prolonged event; the police shootings of 2016, during which all police patrols went from one- to two-person patrols, thereby doubling the need for officers on all shifts; the 2014 ice storm, which was a prolonged event, and other crisis or emergency situations; fundraisers on campus such as the Komen Race for the Cure, the GeauxTeal walk for ovarian cancer, The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, and many more (police coverage typically paid for by the fundraising organizations, presumably through runners' registration fees); student activities or events held by student organizations (often paid by student fees); work at other LSU facilities such as the Rural Life Museum on Essen Lane, LSU's South Campus on Innovation Park Drive near Gardere Lane, the Lod Cook Alumni Center, which includes many after-hours events; and more.

Please note that funds for overtime payments are not necessarily paid by state money. Some overtime payments are provided by the facilities or organizations that are holding the events. For example, student and Greek organizations provide the funds for LSU PD coverage at their events, and those organizations are often funded through student fees or membership fees; and if the Lod Cook facility is hosting a private party or event, the person hosting that event pays for LSU PD coverage as part of their rental for the facility. Those are just two examples.

Also, police officers typically work extra hours whenever LSU activates its Emergency Operations Center, which gets activated not only in times of crises for the university, but also anytime the state opens a Special Needs Shelter at LSU facilities, which is a contractual arrangement between LSU and the state.

Overtime for police officers must be pre-approved or must be the result of some type of emergency or police case that occurs. But those unexpected overtime cases are also subject to approval by supervisors. In other words, overtime is not given to an officer who chooses to stay late to do office work; it is given as the result of working a specific event or meeting a specific need.

A full list of LSU police pay for 2015 and 2016 can be seen here:

The records were obtained as part of an ongoing investigation by reporter Lee Zurik of Raycom Media's WVUE-TV in New Orleans and WAFB-TV. That report has not yet been broadcast.

An LSU spokesperson, responding to previous questions about overtime pay, told Zurik that much of the overtime was for private functions or private security detail and that overtime money was repaid by private groups or individuals.

"Our policy is to not comment on personnel matters, but there have been no terminations at the police department," said spokesman Ernie Ballard.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved. WVUE-TV in New Orleans contributed to this report.