Report: Capitol protests cost about $1M to Michigan

6:59 PM, Jan 28, 2013   |    comments
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Right-to-work protestors on the lawn of the Michigan Capitol, 12/11/12.

LANSING (LANSING STATE JOURNAL) - Massive demonstrations at the Capitol last month over right-to-work legislation reportedly cost taxpayers nearly $1 million.

Michigan State Police spent $901,132 in overtime pay and on other miscellaneous costs because of additional security brought to the Capitol between Dec. 5 and Dec. 12, spokeswoman Shannon Banner told the Michigan Information and Research Service.

Several Lansing-area law enforcement agencies also provided assistance during the right-to-work demonstrations, but local officials told the Lansing State Journal today they typically don't tally up those kinds of costs.

Across those eight days in December, hundreds of law enforcement officers - primarily State Police troopers - were on hand at the Capitol when lawmakers introduced, debated and ultimately passed bills that make it illegal for employers to require public- and private-sector workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

For tactical reasons, Banner wouldn't disclose to MIRS how many troopers were on hand at the Capitol, but MIRS reports that between Dec. 6 and Dec. 11, troopers racked up more than 13,600 manhours, including at least 4,400 hours of overtime.

Hundreds - and at times, thousands - of protestors flooded the Capitol and eastern lawn, most to oppose the right-to-work bills. The crowds required a heightened police presence at the Capitol to protect lawmakers and maintain order among the impassioned crowds.

Banner told MIRS the State Police also incurred $464,317 in typical expenses that are already accounted for in the annual budget.

While the State Police maintained a presence at the Capitol for eight straight days, demonstrations raged for only two of them, with relatively minor protests brewing in between.

On Dec. 6, the House and Senate gave initial approval for the right-to-work bills, after Republican leaders introduced the legislation earlier that day and held no committee hearings. Several hundred people protested at the Capitol, forcing a temporary lock-down of the building when it reached capacity. Eight people were arrested after they allegedly tried to pushed past police in an effort to enter the Senate floor.

The protests reached their climax Dec. 11, when an estimated 12,500 people gathered on the Capitol grounds.

Three people were arrested during that day's demonstrations, when the House gave final approval to the right-to-work bills and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed them into law by day's end.

Banner told MIRS the costs incurred by Michigan State Police are far less than the money spent in Wisconsin two years ago, when that state legislature faced throngs of protestors who opposed the government's efforts to curb collective bargaining rights.

According to MIRS, Banner said Wisconsin spent $8 million to provide extra security in Madison when the state Capitol was overrun by tens of thousands of protestors for several weeks.

Local aid, costs

Several Lansing-area law enforcement agencies assisted the State Police during the height of the protests, but what costs those entities incurred isn't fully clear.

Officials at the East Lansing Police Department and both the Clinton and Ingham County sheriff's offices told the Lansing State Journal today that their assistance at the Capitol was covered under "mutual aid" agreements, which mean law enforcement agencies provide assistance to each other during their normal course of business.

As a courtesy, agencies typically don't bill each other for those services, East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy said.

"We help them when they need it and they help us when we need it," Murphy said.

In terms of equipment and manpower, local agencies' assistance at the Capitol on Dec. 11 was minimal compared to the State Police presence.

Murphy said about 20 East Lansing police officers helped out at the Capitol and sheriff's officials said volunteer-based mounted divisions from both Ingham and Clinton counties also provided assistance.

In addition to the volunteers, three full-time Clinton County sheriff's officials were on hand at the Capitol on Dec. 11, Sgt. Fritz Sandberg said.

Ingham County had some deputies and two transport vehicles on stand-by in case they were needed, Sheriff's Maj. Joel Maatman said.

According to the state Police, the state Department of Corrections, Lansing Police, Michigan State University police, and local emergency medical services also helped out during the protests.

Lansing State Journal

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