Riot preparations divert money from police needs

by Koran Addo

Some schools are known for partying, some for academics and others for athletics. The University, however, might become known for rioting, which could end up costing students.

After two years of riots following NCAA hockey championships, the recent riot at Minnesota State University-Mankato and the Halloween riot in Madison, Wis., University officials said they have no choice but to prepare for rowdy behavior.

Greg Hestness, assistant vice president for public safety, said University police spent thousands of dollars preparing for riots after the University of Michigan football game alone.

“An extra $12,500 was spent on equipment and overtime pay for officers,” Hestness said.

University police took similar precautions after the homecoming football game. In both cases the extra money went toward paying extra patrol officers.

Overtime costs come directly out of the police budget. Hestness said although the budget accounts for overtime, excess costs can cause other areas of police work to suffer.

“University police try to cover expenses internally,” Hestness said. “They may have to defer equipment purchases and cut training seminars.”

While there were no riots after either game, both University Police and those from other Big Ten schools said the preparation costs are necessary.

“It is always better to be over-prepared,” said Capt. Brian Bridges, a University of Wisconsin-Madison police official. “It would be much worse if we didn’t prepare.”

Michigan State University police spent about $130,000 – including about $2,000 per hour in officer overtime – during riots after the 1999 NCAA Final Four Tournament.

“Kids will do what they’re going to do,” said Dave Trexler, a Michigan State University police officer. “We need to look at if cops weren’t there, who would they fall back on?”

Bridges also said rowdy students and revelers give them no choice but to spend money on riot preparation, but he added that the money could definitely be better spent on other police needs.

“We are always responding to the last thing that happened,” Bridges said. “It is our job to prepare for a riot. It’s what we do Ö but we don’t get more money just because we spent more.”

But rioters might be costing the University money in more departments than just the police.

Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer said he believes the hockey riots also directly affected the amount of money the Legislature gave the University.

“The budget was in the Legislature when the second riot happened,” Dyer said. “We were down there saying they have to fund the ‘U,’ and they were asking why they should help students (who) destroy their own property.”

Dyer said the riots give the student community a bad reputation that is difficult to disprove.

Although Hestness said “it’s a tough call on whether future preparation is going to happen,” other University officials said it is up to students to save the money.

“It comes down to the students,” said June Nobbe, University director of student development. “Students have to think about their behavior and know that they are not just faces lost in a crowd.”

For smaller events, University police plan to use officers patrolling neighborhood parties as “an early warning system” in case of a riot.