NDN special report: The price of hiring law enforcement for special events

Greg Kahn/Staff 
 Collier County Sheriff deputies patrol the parking lot before Trader Joe's opens in North Naples on Feb. 10, 2012.

Photo by GREG KAHN, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Greg Kahn/Staff Collier County Sheriff deputies patrol the parking lot before Trader Joe's opens in North Naples on Feb. 10, 2012.

Off-duty law enforcement officers often work special details to provide coverage during community events. Here’s a look at how much that coverage costs

Event Agency Cost

Snowfest Collier Sheriff’s Office $2,295

HITS Triathlon Collier Sheriff’s Office $29,000

Collier County Fair Collier Sheriff’s Office $24,182.50

St. Patrick’s Day Parade Naples police $3,560

Daily News Half Marathon Naples police $1,878.75

Fitness Challenge Triathlon Naples police $2,662.50

The race began in the wee hours of the morning Jan. 8, and the first person crossed the finish line 10 hours and 27 minutes later.

The full triathlon on that Sunday was part of a two-day HITS Triathlon event that took over northern Collier County's roads during the first weekend in January.

Hundreds of competitors registered to participate and dozens of Collier County sheriff's deputies were hired by event organizers, costing them $29,000 to keep traffic at bay.

It's a common practice among law enforcement agencies, and Collier County Sheriff's Office Commander Bill McDonald said organizations have been hiring Sheriff's Office employees for special details for decades.

"We have numerous ongoing contracts and some large events or things (each year)," he said.

Sheriff's officials said HITS triathlon organizers hired 42 deputies a day for two days, or about 691 hours.

There was no cost to the Sheriff's Office for the detail, spokeswoman Michelle Batten said, because the work was done "off-duty at the contract rate."

The off-duty contract rate for Collier County deputies is $42.50 an hour, and McDonald said special details — whether they be for special events or a weekly contract to patrol at movie theaters — must be for at least three hours.

But it's not just big events — such as the HITS triathlon or the Collier County fair — that require special details. A Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said Trader Joe's officials requested a special detail for three days during its opening this weekend. The office declined to disclose how many deputies were requested because of tactical concerns.

That's more than the hourly rate an off-duty officer in the city of Naples makes for contract work.

The city of Naples charged the Fitness Challenge Triathlon $2,662 for coverage of the June 8 race. Event organizers hired 14 officers at a rate of $40 an hour for three hours and one supervisor at $45 an hour for three hours.

City records show event organizers also hired four emergency medical technicians at a rate of $42.50 an hour for three hours, and required 15 vehicles.

The city charges $7.50 an hour per vehicle when a vehicle is requested

No such charge exists at the Sheriff's Office. Instead, $2.17 of the $42.50 hourly rate goes toward administrative fees, such as the cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance.

David Lykins, the city's director of community services, said special details are primarily used when a street is closed or there's a large event — such as the Fitness Challenge Triathlon or the Naples National Art Festival in Cambier Park — that requires traffic control. But not all special details are paid for by event organizers, and a historic parade through the streets of downtown Naples is a prime example.

The city of Naples underwrote, or sponsored, the cost of public safety personnel, including police officers and firefighters for the annual Swamp Buggy Parade for decades.

The city in 2010 paid 46 police officers and one beach specialist a combined $8,023 in overtime to cover the parade.

City officials in 2011 said they no longer could support the cost of underwriting the parade, and asked that the Sheriff's Office take over the duties. The office obliged, and in 2011 the parade was covered by 29 on-duty deputies.

Batten said those deputies "were temporarily assigned to the parade and balanced their hours." Twenty-four unpaid auxiliary deputies and agency volunteers supplemented the on-duty coverage.

"This operational plan meant there was no cost to the agency or the taxpayers," Batten said in a Jan. 20 email to the Daily News.

The cost to the taxpayer comes in to play when special details aren't done on a contract basis. And while the bulk of the special detail contract rate goes toward a law enforcement officer's salary — at the Sheriff's Office that means $36 of the $42.50 goes to the deputy — officials said it's often cheaper than the alternative: Not contracting services and paying law enforcement officers overtime rates.

The overtime rate for a Collier County deputy ranges from $27.39 an hour to $47.89 an hour depending on rank; while the overtime rate for a Naples officer ranges from $34.74 to $49.89 depending on rank.

Police coverage at an overtime rate came into play Jan. 24 when about 6,000 people filled Cambier Park to hear Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich speak.

Lykins said while event organizers filled out a park reservation form, early estimates for the event didn't trigger the need for a special detail. But as the crowds started to flood the park, Lykins said the city needed to request extra assistance for traffic control.

The city was prepared to have eight officers on duty for the event, but increased the number to 12 when city leaders saw the size of the crowd.

Lykins said a similar event for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney didn't trigger a detail because of size, but extra officers were on duty because the city needed to close off a portion of Fifth Avenue South from Eighth Street South to Park Street.

Gingrich's team paid $880 to rent the Cambier Park band shell, while Romney's paid $1,641 for a special event permit.

Connect with reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna-buzzacco.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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