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September 16, 2015

Police costs for papal visit remain unannounced

Mayor Nutter says city 'not in position to talk' about police overtime costs

Philadelphia Police will work 12-hour shifts throughout the papal visit, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced during a press conference Wednesday. But city officials declined to state the cost of police overtime.

All police will begin working 12-hour shifts at midnight on Friday, Sept. 25, Ramsey announced, a change from their typical eight-hour shifts. All requested days off have been denied. 

The shift change pertains to officers working throughout the city — not just those assigned to Center City, where Pope Francis will hold three public events on Saturday, Sept. 26 and Sunday, Sept. 27. 

Ramsey stressed police coverage will be felt throughout the city, but city officials declined to announce the number of officers working or their placement. They also balked at citing overtime costs.

"I can assure you that Mr. Ramsey is not going to tell you how many police officers are assigned to the papal event or its activities," Mayor Michael Nutter said. "As we continue to refine our plans, we're not in a position to talk about how much overtime or what all the exact costs are going to be. 

"It's not an exact science, but certainly given (Ramsey's) expertise, and working with our other departments and law enforcement, we'll have the right number of officers strategically placed throughout the Francis Festival Grounds and throughout the rest of the city."

Nutter acknowledged the World Meeting of Families has pledged to foot any costs that exceed the city's typical expenses. But that figure remains a mystery to those outside City Hall.

Event organizers established a $45 million fundraising goal to cover expenses, but have not updated its fundraising total since it reached $30 million in February. However, an event spokeswoman told PhillyVoice last month that the fundraising total is now "well north" of $30 million.

Police officers will be assigned to three varying 12-hour shifts throughout the papal visit, beginning at noon, 4 p.m. and midnight. Ramsey said the 4 p.m. shift is designed to ensure the highest amount of police officers are working overnight, when crime typically peaks.

"We are very much aware of the fact that the remainder of the city is still active and out there," Ramsey said. "We will have adequate coverage outside of the festival grounds."

Police from the Sixth and Ninth Districts, where the papal events will take place, will be assigned to areas outside Center City. Detectives will work in either the First or 22nd District offices.

City firefighters already work 12-hour shifts, but Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said the department will provide the same level of service outside of Center City. The department will increase medical units from 50 to 60 and place an additional two engines and ladders in service.