Richmond Police spent tax $ at Henrico County establishments for rally food

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 10/27/2017, 5:43 a.m.
Will Richmond have to shell out another $570,000 if supporters of Confederate statues come back in six weeks to hold ...

Will Richmond have to shell out another $570,000 if supporters of Confederate statues come back in six weeks to hold another rally in Richmond?

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham is keeping mum about his plans for dealing with a return visit Saturday, Dec. 9, from members of the Tennessee-based CSA II: The New Confederate States of America, who have vowed to show up for a second rally at the statue of Confederate Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue.

Chief Durham did not respond to a request for comment.

The police department’s overtime budget was strained by the first rally held on Monument Avenue on Sept. 16.

Uncertain of the numbers of people and counterprotesters who would attend, and armed with a directive to prevent the kind of bloodshed Charlottesville experienced at a August rally over their Confederate statues, Chief Durham deployed 475 off-duty Richmond officers to provide crowd control at the statue and in other parts of the city.

The disclosure, provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, indicates the chief essentially called in almost everyone who was not scheduled to work.

The department has an authorized strength of 750 sworn officers, with about 710 officers available because of vacancies and officers on leave for a variety of reasons.

The city’s police force was supplemented with untold numbers of State Police troopers and officers from the Capitol Police, Virginia Commonwealth University Police, sheriff’s deputies and officers from Henrico County and other departments. Based on food purchases, the number of officers could have totaled between 1,000 and 1,400 who were on the scene.

What is clear, authorities vastly outnumbered the six pro-statue demonstrators who showed up, as well as the few hundred counterprotesters who turned out to rally against the racial bigotry and hate they believe the neo-Confederate group and the statues symbolize.

The average hourly cost of overtime for the Richmond force alone amounted to about $20,600. That’s based on the average overtime pay of $43.56 an hour.

On Friday, Sept. 15, the day before the rally, the department’s information shows that Chief Durham deployed 204 officers to provide security at the Monument Avenue site in case some pro-Confederates sought to conduct an early torchlight rally as they did in Charlottesville. Officers also notified residents of street closings and assisted workers setting up barriers and fencing at the Monument Avenue site.

On Sunday, Sept. 17, according to the records, 16 officers were paid overtime to keep an eye on the area just in case demonstrators cropped up unexpectedly.

Overall, the chief spent about $250,000 on overtime pay, including pay for a small group of officers who began shortly after the deadly Aug. 12 Charlottesville rally to work on plans to handle events in Richmond.

Along with manpower spending, the department separately reported spending about $250,000 on equipment and other items ahead of the rally. Those costs included $15,000 for fencing around the Arthur Ashe Jr. Athletic Center on the Boulevard, which was used as a staging center for police.