Confederate rally in Richmond exceeds $500,000 in police spending

Jeremy Lazarus | 10/19/2017, 5:48 p.m.
“The cost of monitoring First Amendment assemblies is not cheap.” That’s the view of Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham. And ...

By Jeremy M. Lazarus

“The cost of monitoring First Amendment assemblies is not cheap.”

That’s the view of Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham.

And that certainly proved true for Richmond, which spent $570,000 on crowd control and other services on the Sept. 16 protest over the city’s Confederate statues, according to figures the city reported last Friday.

Chief Durham was the biggest spender.

Given a blank check to prevent another Charlottesville where one person was killed and dozens injured at an August rally involving that city’s Lee statue, Chief Durham didn’t spare any expense.

Uncertain how many pro-Confederate statue supporters and counterprotestors would be on hand, he authorized $252,328 in overtime to provide the city police personnel he deemed necessary, according to the report.

He also spent another $254,041 on operating costs, including the purchase of equipment that could be used at this event and similar events, such as the one the same pro-Confederate group, the Tennessee-based New Confederate States of America, is planning for Saturday, Dec. 9.

His total expenditure of $506,369 was seven times the $70,000 that Charlottesville reported spending for its August event, which was huge compared with the rally in Richmond.

The chief has yet to provide more details, including how many officers got paid and how long those officers ended up working before, during and after the Sept. 16 rally.

Nor has the city. And it may be the inquiries will not be made given that City Council was thrilled that the upheaval in the city proved minimal.

Still, the chief took a real interest in a Miami Herald article focusing on white supremacist Richard Spencer’s planned appearance at the University of Florida. He was to speak this Thursday, Oct. 19, on the campus.

The article noted that Gainsville, Fla., is projecting it could spend $500,000 to handle that event, based on estimates that untold thousands of supporters and foes are headed to that city to show support or to condemn Mr. Spencer.

In Richmond, the pro-Confederate group could only muster six people, and the counterprotest group numbered less than 200, and the shouting match over the statue largely dissipated after about three hours.

With the Charlottesville bloodshed still fresh, public messages urging people to stay away and wholesale shutdown of streets might have aided in reducing the number of participants.

The Richmond Department of Fire and Emergency Services trailed far behind police, but was the second biggest spender out of the seven city departments and the Sheriff’s Office that were engaged, according to the city’s report.

The Fire Department spent $28,056 on personnel overtime, plus $5,730 on operating costs, according to the report, for a total of $33,786. It is unclear how or why that money was spent.

The other city departments, Emergency Communications, Information Technology, Planning, Public Works and Public Utilities, and the Sheriff’s Office, collectively spent $29,859.

Virtually all that money, more than $26,000, went to pay overtime to personnel. For example, Emergency Communications spent around $6,400 on overtime, while the Sheriff’s Office paid out nearly $3,800 and Information Technology spent nearly $7,400.

Public Works, whose staff was involved in setting up barriers and cleanup, paid about $3,800 in overtime, while Public Utilities spent $5,160 on personnel costs, plus another $3,791 on a contractor.