The Philadelphia Police Department has spent nearly $700,000 on overtime for policing recent protests in the city related to the deaths of unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
In a two week span, the overtime tab to have officers shut down streets, blockade highway entrances and ensure safe demonstration by protesters has reached approximately $683,000, Philadelphia Police spokesman Lt. John Stanford tells NBC10.
The demonstrations began on the evening of Nov. 24 after a Missouri grand jury declined to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Brown, a unarmed black teenager. A little more than a week later, a grand jury in New York City declined to indict a New York Police officer in the chokehold death of Garner. The 43-year-old father was unarmed and the chokehold was caught on video.
Hundreds of people took part in the loud, but peaceful protests that included marches around Center City Philadelphia, North Philadelphia and die-in demonstrations inside 30th Street Station and outside Lincoln Financial Field. During the die-in protests, demonstrators lay down for 4 minutes and 30 seconds to represent the 4 hours and 30 minutes Brown’s body was on the ground after his death.
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The protests, similar to ones held in cities across the United States, have questioned police treatment of African-Americans and sparked a national debate about race.
Philadelphia Police were out in force for these demonstrations. There were Civil Affairs officers, Strike Force officers, bicycle police and, at times, air support from the department’s helicopter fleet.
“Clearly, it’s a significant expenditure, but a necessary one to maintain public safety for all of those who are exercising their First Amendment rights and others who are impacted by demonstrations,” Mark McDonald, spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter, said on Friday.
In the past, police have spent big bucks on overtime for both planned and unplanned events.
The department spent more than $1 million in overtime covering the Phillies World Series victory parade on Oct. 31, 2008. For the first five days of Occupy Philadelphia in 2011, the city spent $164,000 in officer overtime. An audit by City Controller Alan Butkovitz last year said the city spent nearly $64 million in police overtime overall in 2012.
The protest-related overtime bill will most likely grow before the end of the year.
The numbers were tabulated by the department at NBC10’s request. They account for police overtime worked for demonstrations through Sunday, Dec. 7, when demonstrators held a die-in outside the Philadelphia Eagles game. There have been at least two other protests since, including a die-in by medical students at the University of Pennsylvania and a march and demonstration at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.