Who pays for protection?
Outside the site of a prominent East Lakeshore Drive mansion that has been under construction for the past two years, a Baton Rouge Police Department officer stands guard 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Actually, most of the time the officer sits. In the car. With the air conditioning running, at least this time of year.
While the officers who share that duty are being paid individually by the property owners to guard the home, taxpayers are footing the bill for the fuel that the air conditioner is burning and for the wear and tear on the patrol cars. Public dollars are also covering the cost of the uniforms the officers wear while they're working the private detail, not their regular job.
In fact, public dollars always fund the use of BRPD officers' patrol cars, even when they're not on duty. That's the way the system is set up, and BRPD officials say while it may not seem fair on the surface, it's actually a good thing for the whole community.
“Any opportunity that we have to get an officer on the street and not have to pay his salary or benefits is a benefit to us,” says Lt. Todd Lee, who oversees extra details at the BRPD. “That's how we see it.”
The BPRD won't say how much the officers are paid to guard the East Lakeshore construction site, except to say it was approved by the department. As with all details, however, the officer on duty is obligated to assist any on-duty officers should the need arise.
“If a call were to be dispatched to a homeowner around the corner who had dialed 911 and was in need of assistance, an officer working that detail would immediately leave and respond to that call to render aid until on duty officers could arrive,” says Cpl. L'Jean McNeely, BRPD's public information officer.
The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office also requires that its deputies come to the aid of on-duty officers if needed, whether or not they're on a paid detail. However, unlike the BRPD, EBRSO deputies pay out of their own pocket for the regular, personal use of their squad cars: $65 a month if they live in the parish, $125 a month if they live outside. As a practical matter, that means if a deputy is doing a private detail, he's paying for the gasoline himself, not the EBRSO.
While that may seem more equitable to some, officials with both law-enforcement agencies say having more law enforcement officers on the street is a good thing and that the public benefits, which is why it's OK for them to pick up part of the tab.
Says Lee: “Extra duty officers serve to provide an increased presence and allow for more officers to be in public than would be normally available.”
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