One of the more populist talking points used to drive a wedge between the "everyday man" and any protest movement is the idea that protesting is somehow a drain on public resources. The trope that cops love protests because of overtime pay fits into this sentiment perfectly: it provides those on the right a smug trump card by reducing protests to a profit center for the very forces the left passionately hates. But the latest iteration of this trope in The NY Post Wednesday exposes it for the largely overblown myth that it is:
He also said the protests “are proving very costly,” with the NYPD fielding “the equivalent of 38,700 tours of duty since Dec. 3” and spending nearly $23 million on overtime.
The number has since been repeated everywhere from The LA Times to The Daily News to DNAInfo, all uncritically playing into the idea that this overtime figure is somehow deviate from the norm. But there's only one problem: it isn't at all. In fact, $23 million is exactly what one would expect the NYPD to spend on overtime for any 13 day period in 2014 - regardless of circumstance. First, let's take a look at how much the NYPD spends per year on overtime using the last four years where the actual monies spent can be accounted for From 2007-2010. According to the City Council's records:
You'll notice the NYPD's overtime budget is routinely over budget by an average 32.58%:
The planned overtime budget for FY 2014 was a total of $493 million. Add in an additional $160.62 million (to account for the average over budget costs of 32.58%) and the total is $653.62 million or $1.79 million a day or exactly $23.28 million for any given 13 day period - well within the margin of error for the number Commissioner Bratton provided to The Daily News of "$22.9 million".
But what about all those extra cops? Consolidating all the police officers around protesters for photo-ops doesn't necessarily mean there are more cops on the streets. In any event, the numbers don't lie: the NYPD spent roughly $23 million on overtime from December 3rd to December 15th because that's exactly what it was going to do anyway.