Protest costs for UC Berkeley starting to add up

BERKELEY (KTVU) -- The recent protests -- including one last week after Ann Coulter was invited to speak -- that have flared in the city of Berkeley have prompted the call out of law enforcement officers to keep the peace.

But UC Berkeley and local police agencies are incurring costs to their bottom lines and tax payers are ultimately on the hook for the expenses.

The law enforcement agencies are now looking to reimbursements from each other for the costs incurred by their response.

UC Berkeley police officers, Berkeley police and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office all responded to the dueling protests that resulted from the plan to bring Coulter to campus on April 27. The departments incurred overtime expenses of at least $500,000 as the protests unfolded.

The university officers and Berkeley police said they needed the additional assistance to keep the peace.

Since Donald Trump was elected president, Berkeley has become ground zero for protests and political activity around free speech. The activity risks overwhelming the resources of both of those departments, said Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County sheriff's department.

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The large presence of law enforcement limited the possibility of violence but the Alameda sheriff ran up $80,000 by responding to the event and the department wants its money back.

"We entered into a memorandum of understanding contract with the university," Kelly said. "That they would reimburse us the cost of our 80 officers to go out to Berkeley that day."

Since UC Berkeley is in Alameda County and the Coulter speech was a planned event, the sheriff can request and expect reimbursement.

In an unplanned emergency, such as the Ghost Ship Fire last December, or a spontaneous riot or act of terror, mutual aid is provided as a normal cost and there is no expectation of reimbursement.

Every time a planned protest occurs on campus and sheriff's deputies are requested, the university incurs expenses that outside agencies can request reimbursement for.

"It is not like anybody is profiting off of doing this," Kelly said.

The University says the cost of such protection is justified given it dual role to protect students, staff and visitors as well as provide a forum for free speech.

By KTVU reporter Tom Vacar.

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