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Buffalo Police discuss cost of public safety presence for large events

Some federal funding assistance to cover costs.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There are many mass gathering events scheduled in the City of Buffalo this summer. It presents a challenge for law enforcement to make sure we all stay safe. 2 On Your Side looked at the greater involvement of the Buffalo Police Department with cost factors.

You may or may not have noticed their presence during the Buffalo Marathon on Sunday. But there were heavily armed police officers on a building roof overlooking Delaware Avenue and then later watching the crowd near the race finish line. Sadly their presence a necessary factor following events like the Boston Marathon bombing ten years ago. The subject surfaced for police during the City Council discussions over the recent budget and police overtime. 

Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia says " All of these events are soft targets. The (city) charter does not allow us to to bill for the staffing of those. Clearly we have to provide manpower for these events." 

Of course the Erie County sheriff's office has provided armed SWAT officers at Bills games for some time. But here in the city it's also a costly factor for Buffalo police. 

Interestingly enough In this case for a race like the marathon or any kind of moving or procession event like a parade, we found out city police can actually charge for some of their time. 

"The city charter allows us to charge 65 dollars an hour per member of the department regardless of rank for a moving event. Those moving events are parades and races primarily," Gramaglia said.

However there are so many other security - required events on the list. It includes the New Year's Eve Ball drop, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the upcoming Pride Parade, and then Juneteenth on Genesee Street and at MLK Park. 

 Also there are strictly stationary but very crowded downtown events like next month's Allentown Arts Festival and of course the Taste of Buffalo in July.

The Police Commissioner says the city does get some help from the Federal Justice Department's Justice Assistance Grant or "JAG". Last year the BPD along with some suburban police departments received nearly $270,000 in one of those JAG grants for which they had to apply to Washington.

"There's a  lot of large gathering events. It does not cover all the costs but we apply funding to help offset those costs," Gramaglia explained.

In the recent budget vote, Buffalo City Council cut the police department's overtime funding by two million dollars. It's not clear about the impact on their overall operations.

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