The New Orleans Police Department dedicated more than 200 officers and 8,600 man-hours to keep the peace at three Confederate monuments as the city removed them last month, city records show.
The cash-strapped city spent more than $173,000 on paying officers deployed to protests and removal operations at the Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee monuments, including $112,000 in time-and-a-half overtime pay that went to 178 officers.
The city overtime data and expenses were provided to WWL-TV in response to the station’s public records request for police overtime dedicated to the removal of four monuments starting with the Battle of Liberty Place monument on April 24.
But the records only go back to April 30 and do not include police hours or overtime costs associated with the Liberty Place monument, a Jim Crow-era obelisk that celebrated an 1874 uprising by white supremacists against the city’s integrated police force.
NOPD spokesman Beau Tidwell said that serious threats from armed protesters made the NOPD's presence as a security force essential, and department leaders closely monitored the deployment of officers.
"We are proud of the work our men and women did to enable everyone on both sides of the issue to exercise their rights safely and legally, and without significant violence of any kind,” Tidwell said.
Donovan Livaccari, attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, noted the NOPD has a serious manpower problem as it tries to address mounting violent crime, but he said that protecting protesters who gathered on both sides of the monument issue was also an important part of their duties.
He said he heard from some officers who complained that the monument duty was taking them away from their regular work.
“Whether or not they agree with what the underlying issue is, is irrelevant because they have a job to do,” he said. “They’re professionals and they’re going to do it.”
Livaccari said the NOPD has a budgeted amount of overtime for the year, and dedicating 3,000 hours to the monument removal and protests is sure to make a serious dent in that allocation.
But Erin Burns, spokeswoman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said the security costs should be covered within the NOPD's normal budget, which already allocates overtime for major special events such as Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest.
Landrieu has already said that a bid process for selling the statues to qualified government or nonprofit entities could help recover some of the city's removal costs. And the city has an agreement with the Foundation for Louisiana, which collected private donations to pay a contractor to do the statue-removal work.
WWL-TV and its partners at The New Orleans Advocate have requested all the expense information for the monument removal. So has Stacy Head, the only member of the City Council who voted against removing the monuments.
She said she requested this information weeks ago as the chair of the Budget Committee and has not received anything except what WWL-TV provided her.
“I appreciate that the administration is providing this information in a piecemeal fashion to the media, but I requested a comprehensive accounting and am still waiting for it,” Head said.
The city has twice pushed back deadlines under the state Public Records Law to provide those records to WWL-TV. Also, the city has not yet responded to the station's request from early May for overtime and deployment information for the New Orleans Fire Department, which assigned several firefighters to the monument removal efforts.
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