Demonstrations in Seattle that followed recent grand juries’ decisions to not indict police officers who killed unarmed men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City have cost the city nearly $600,000.
Services, including planning for and providing public safety during the demonstrations, cost $585,970 from Nov. 13 through Dec. 2, leading the city to request organizers of marches and rallies to use a special-event permitting process to “facilitate better communication between event organizers and police,” the police department said. Only one of the recent protests went through the permit process.
“City leaders would like to invite a conversation on this subject because these services are expensive,” the police department said.
The first demonstration in Seattle, following the announcement of the grand jury decision to not indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on Nov. 24, cost the city $101,571. The most costly protest was on Dec. 1, after Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said she had issued an “all hands on deck” order for officers in advance of a demonstration that began at Westlake Park.
The police department incurred nearly $16,000 in extra staffing in the days leading up to the Ferguson decision announcement.
“It was a big announcement, and we wanted to make sure we had enough staff present to facilitate free-speech gatherings,” police spokesman Sean Whitcomb said.
The cost figures include both on-duty officers and officers who were working overtime, Whitcomb said. Funds to pay for policing during the protests will come from the city’s General Fund.
Whitcomb said the department hopes to work with protest organizers to determine how it can provide the best public-safety services.
“Our hope is that we can increase our efficiency by knowing what it is the organizers are after, where they want to go, what they want to do, and how we can best facilitate this,” Whitcomb said.