Raleigh foots bill for 'Moral Monday' policing

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJuly 14, 2013 

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— The city’s police department has spent $69,000 assisting with arrests and security and the weekly “Moral Mondays” protests, and some Raleigh leaders and taxpayers don’t want to foot the bill.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she’s recently inquired about getting that money back from the state. “It would be nice if the state reimbursed us, but that’s not going to happen,” she said.

The reason, according to the mayor, is the state legislature cut its in-house law enforcement several years ago, requiring Raleigh to provide extra security whenever requested. McFarlane isn’t a fan of that provision, but legally the city has no recourse now. The legislature, she says, “should have talked to us and negotiated something, rather than giving us an unfunded mandate.”

The costs are a hard pill for some in Raleigh to swallow given District Attorney Colon Willoughby’s recent critique of the arrests. He said police could save money and resources by issuing citations to law-breaking protestors, and he expressed concerns that the General Assembly police might be responding to political pressures by arresting protesters instead.

“It would probably save the Wake County taxpayers over $100,000 in police, sheriff and processing costs, and salaries,” Willoughby said earlier this month.

The cost could be higher than Willoughby’s estimate. The Wake County Sheriff’s Department has spent a total of $43,579. Law enforcement duties from Raleigh and Wake – excluding court system costs – hit $112,000 with last week’s protest.

General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver denies that his approach is politically motivated and said that arrests are necessary to disperse the weekly crowds protesting the Republican majority.

Raleigh neighborhood leader Mark Turner took issue with that argument in a recent blog post titled “Weaver’s Waste.”

“That sure is easy for him to say, with RPD muscle doing all the work, the City of Raleigh paying overtime for their cops, Wake County doing the booking, and Colon Willoughby having to schedule court time,” Turner wrote.

Turner says that state leaders need to agree to cover costs or opt for less costly citations. He’s also concerned that some officers are working their regular shifts or taking compensatory time, rather than earning overtime, when they’re dispatched to Jones Street.

“They’re certainly being drawn away from more important work,” Turner said Thursday.

Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue wouldn’t say how many city officers handle Moral Mondays, citing department policy on such statistics. But he said those not working overtime are from specialized units, not officers who would otherwise be on patrol.

“We strive to use the most economical resources but must also ensure that we have the correct personnel on hand to meet the particular needs of a given situation,” he said.

By comparison, Raleigh police spent $39,700 for the First Night Raleigh New Year’s celebration and $41,300 for Gov. Pat McCrory’s inauguration weekend, Sughrue said.

The police costs will mount as the protests continue this week, and the estimates don’t include jail and court resources covered by Wake County.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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