(WXIR-Rochester) The Rochester Police Department racked up almost half a million dollars in overtime while policing the most recent Black Lives Matter protests, RPD Chief La'Ron Singletary said this week.
"Between the last two weekends, we are at about $400,000 in overtime expenditures due to trying to make sure that we protect the city, and that we protect people's First Amendment right to protest," Singletary told City Council during a budget hearing Tuesday.
The Black Lives Matter protest that took place downtown on May 30th saw a particularly large police response, with officers in riot gear using pepper bullets and other weapons on protesters throughout the afternoon.
Singletary's comments Tuesday came in response to a question from City Councilmember Mitch Gruber, who wanted to know whether RPD overtime expenses were expected to come in on budget this year.
"I believe there are significant cuts that need to be made to police overtime this year, specifically related to the fact that we are in a budget that has to make significant cuts," Gruber said.
The City budgeted $7 million for police overtime during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30th.
In response, Chief Singletary said the RPD has logged about 5000 fewer overtime hours so far this year compared to the previous year, due in large part to the cancellation of special events during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The average overtime rate for RPD officers is $79 an hour.
However, Singletary added that the total number of overtime hours for the current fiscal year is still up in the air. "This year it's also hard to predict overtime as many municipalities across the country are dealing with pop-up protests that occur," Singletary said.
"I think what we've learned over the last two weekends across the nation and here locally is that, less police presence at these protests is oftentimes a good thing," Councilmember Gruber responded, adding, "understanding your need to protect the city, but also understanding that having huge police forces that draw up giant bills in overtime is not necessarily the way we want to go."
For the past week, City Council has been holding hearings on the mayor's proposed 2020-2021 budget. The majority of city departments, including police, are facing cuts.
The proposed RPD budget of $95 million is still the largest of any city department, however.
Since the year 2000, city spending on the RPD has grown by about 80%, even as city spending overall has grown by 56%.
City Council is scheduled to vote on next year's budget on June 16th.