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Trump, Sanders rallies in Spokane racked up big police overtime costs

Trump supporters and protesters argued after a Donald Trump rally on Saturday, May 7, 2016, at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Trump supporters and protesters argued after a Donald Trump rally on Saturday, May 7, 2016, at the Spokane Convention Center in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Donald Trump’s one-hour speech at the Spokane Convention Center in May cost the police department more than $65,000 in overtime.

City payroll records provided to the Spokesman-Review show 93 officers – nearly a third of the city’s police force – received overtime pay for working Trump’s rally. In total, those officers worked 955 hours of overtime.

Police spokeswoman Officer Teresa Fuller said the large police presence during the rally was in response to the sometimes violent confrontations that have taken place between Trump supporters and protesters in other cities.

“We’ve seen what has happened in other areas of the country and wanted to be prepared for what could happen,” she said.

The overtime bill for the presumptive Republican nominee was the heftiest for the campaign season. Two March campaign speeches by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders – one at the Spokane Convention Center and one at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena – took about 485 overtime hours to staff, costing about $33,000.

A May campaign rally for Hillary Clinton at Spokane Falls Community College, where former president Bill Clinton spoke, was a bargain by comparison: Seven officers worked 41 overtime hours, at a cost of just under $2,800.

Large special events often incur overtime costs for police, but recurring events generally pay some of the associated costs. Bloomsday’s current contract with the city says the Lilac Bloomsday Association will pay 60 percent of police and fire overtime costs, estimated at a total of $64,000 for 2016. Hoopfest has a similar contract in place.

In 2015, the police department paid almost $3.9 million in overtime, city payroll records show. Nearly all of that pay went to commissioned officers.

Law enforcement director Jim McDevitt submitted bills to all three campaigns for overtime costs on May 17, asking them to pay the full amount within 30 days. He has yet to hear back, but remains optimistic in spite of skepticism from officers in the department.

“I’m betting that they’ll pay, but it seems as though nobody will take the bet,” he said.

Officers began standing outside the convention center for Trump’s rally in the early morning hours, though the candidate wasn’t scheduled to speak until noon. About 4,000 people gathered inside to hear the speech, while a few dozen protesters held signs outside.

The two groups traded insults for much of the morning as people lined up to go into the rally. Following Trump’s speech, police stood in a line between protesters and Trump supporters leaving the convention center. Though there were tense moments as the groups yelled at each other, there were no serious problems or incidents during the rally.

McDevitt said it’s difficult to correctly predict how many officers will be needed, but when in doubt, he errs on the side of more security.

“If you have nothing happen, people will say, ‘Why did you have all the policemen and the cops there?’ ” he said. “It’s never perfect and you never know what you prevented by having a law enforcement presence.”

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