Overtime costs to pay police officers responding to protests during the first 10 days following the Sept. 15 not guilty verdict of a former police officer on first-degree murder charges were nearly $4 million.

St. Louis city police estimate overtime costs at $2.9 million between Sept. 15 and Sept. 25. The department said in a statement that “additional costs related to protest overtime” are mounting through this week, but newer figures were not immediately available.

St. Louis County officers worked about 25,000 hours of overtime between Sept. 15 and Sept. 25 at a cost of about $920,000, according to the department.

The Missouri Highway Patrol has also helped with protest response, but cost figures were not immediately available from the agency.

Protesters have taken to the streets and various locations throughout the region since former police Officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of first-degree murder for the on-duty shooting death of drug suspect Anthony Lamar Smith following a high speed chase.

The city police department has arrested hundreds of demonstrators, sometimes during mass arrests. On Tuesday, city police arrested about 140 people, including a state representative, after they blocked Highway 40 (Interstate 64). On Sept. 17, police arrested about 120 people, including a Post-Dispatch reporter, in a controversial mass arrest at Washington Avenue and Tucker Boulevard downtown.

County police arrested at least 22 people during a protest at the St. Louis Galleria mall in Richmond Heights on Sept. 23.

The protests are coming at a time when the city police department is about 100 officers shy of its budgeted staff. The department has been using money that’s not being used on those officer salaries to cover overtime costs for more than a year.

The city comptroller’s office has criticized the department’s overtime spending habits. In an audit earlier this year, the comptroller’s office criticized records of overtime spending and, in some cases, alleged that the department lacked proof that officers actually worked the overtime — claims the police union strongly denies.

 

By Christine Byers | St. Louis Post-Dispatch