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Police agencies calculating costs of Ferguson response

St. Louis County so far has spent about $1 million in police overtime responding to Ferguson

By Kevin McDermott
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — Now that the unrest in Ferguson apparently has subsided, the bills soon will come due.

For two weeks, law enforcement agencies from those in small cities all the way to the Missouri Highway Patrol and the state's National Guard sent officers and tactical equipment to the small suburban town. From gas masks to overtime, the costs are being tallied.

Generally it's still too early to quantify exactly what the total public cost will be for the extra law enforcement since Michael Brown was fatally shot Aug. 9 — but no one doubts it's well into the millions.

The state has budgeted $3.455 million this year to pay expenses that any state agency incurred during an emergency declared by the governor, in addition to $4 million for emergency duties of the Missouri National Guard.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said none of that money has yet been allocated, but that Gov. Jay Nixon's decision to declare an emergency and call in the Missouri National Guard means some yet-undetermined amount will be. She said it will likely be the first week of September before the amount is set.

The National Guard spent more than a week providing security in Ferguson, but its role was limited to protecting a command center run by the Highway Patrol, the agency Nixon asked to take control of law enforcement in Ferguson after rioting broke out.

Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson announced Wednesday that the command center had been dismantled but that state troopers and county officers will keep a "reduced" presence along West Florissant Avenue, surrounding neighborhoods and the Canfield Green apartments, where Brown was fatally shot.

St. Louis County so far has spent about $1 million in police overtime responding to Ferguson, Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls said. That amount includes about $100,000 a day for the first 9 days after the shooting.

He said the county incurred many other expenses, most of which were still being tallied, for food, equipment, street work, fuel costs and other emergency services.

"All this workforce out there had to be fed," he said. "We used up all of our tear gas and pepper spray."

He said county police experienced equipment losses and expects workers' compensation claims from officers injured during the rioting.

Earls said the county and other municipalities hope the state will defray at least some of their costs.

"If this was a storm, the FEMA folks would have shown up already," he said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We are searching for the FEMA equivalent (regarding) civil unrest. We're certainly going to ask the state for that."

In addition, the county plans to spend up to $1 million to provide support to residents who need help because of the unrest, looting and vandalism in Ferguson and neighboring communities.

That money will be used to help fund and staff a drop-in center for residents in Ferguson, Dellwood and Jennings at the Dellwood Recreation Center, officials have said. The county will work with nonprofit agencies to provide staffing as well as transportation for residents to the center, advice on how to get utility assistance, legal assistance, counseling and other services. Other aid will include help removing debris left by protesters.

"The residents there need a break, and any support we can provide to help the community heal and get back on its feet should be provided, " County Executive Charlie Dooley said last week. "It's the humane thing to do."

Sam Dotson, the police chief of the St. Louis Police Department, said Wednesday that the department spent $740,849 for additional manpower and overtime of officers working 12-hour shifts in Ferguson. He said his department spent an additional $161,783 on equipment such as gas masks and shields for officers.

"We will be sending the bill to the state of Missouri," Dotson said.

Most of St. Louis County's 57 police agencies sent in officers, many on overtime, during the roughly two-week ordeal. And help came from beyond the county, as well.

SWAT teams responded that consisted of roughly 30 officers from various departments in the region, some of them getting paid time-and-a-half, according to Lt. Dave Tiefenbrunn of the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office sent 16 officers to Ferguson for two 12-hour shifts at a cost of roughly $15,500 in overtime pay, said Capt. Ron Arnhart. They also took the department's armored vehicle there. That money came from the sheriff's office budget.

Copyright 2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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