UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State University paid $572,119 last year for officers from five Center County police departments to work overtime at football games, according to agency data.
Police departments from Bellefonte Borough, Ferguson Township, Patton Township, Spring Township and the Borough of State College provided security details and traffic assistance during the seven regular season games at Beaver Stadium in 2021.
At the end of the season, the university reimburses the cost of such overtime to each department at double the officers’ regular hourly rates.
The State University Police Department, which had 61 full-time uniformed employees in 2021, logged more overtime for Penn State than any other local agency. The department reported that its officers worked more than 2,000 hours at the games for a total reimbursement of nearly $399,000.
This amount includes the administrative costs of each game, which are 20% of the cost of the hours worked. For Penn State’s October game against Indiana University, for example, State College charged the university nearly $10,000 in fees.
The other four local police departments worked an average of 412 hours for Penn State football security and were paid between $24,000 and $58,000 for the year.
Penn State will not provide details about overtime reimbursements to Spotlight PA because the information “not considered public”. According to Pennsylvania’s right-to-know law, “institutions related to the state” they are “generally exempt from the requirements of the Act”, according to the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition, a group that advocates for government transparency.
All five local police departments provided reimbursement information upon request.
The true amount of overtime paid is likely more than half a million dollars because it does not include reimbursements made to the Pennsylvania State Police, who also provide security during the game. Trooper Christopher Fox, the public information officer for the seven-county region, including Center, declined to provide the amount the university paid state police in 2021, saying he did not want to comment on behalf of from Penn State.
While working football games is a good opportunity for officers to make extra money, all five police departments said they are not sacrificing their regular patrol operations these days.
Still, Penn State security could man half the officers of a smaller department on a game day. Bellefonte police had 10 full-time uniformed employees last year, according to 2021 salary data provided by the township. Penn State requested two to three patrol officers and two tactical officers from the department for each game, Police Chief Shawn Weaver said.
Weaver said he won’t send the requested detail if the township can’t fill its regular shifts that day. He often patrols those Saturdays, he said, so his officers can work the games.
State College police are increasing their patrols in the township on Friday and Saturday nights during home game weekends in response to the influx of visitors, Capt. Greg Brauser said. Because officers work more shifts these weekends — they might patrol Friday night and, for example, provide security at the game the next day — he said fatigue can become an issue.
State police recruit officers from across Pennsylvania to work football games so the agency doesn’t have to cut back on patrols or overschedule local officers, Fox said.
While Penn State football was a major source of police overtime in 2021, officials said the Center County Drug Task Force run by the state attorney general’s office also played a role. Most of that extra work, which was reimbursed by the attorney general’s office, went to detectives, who earned a total of $154,886 in overtime last year.
Of those police departments, State College is the only one that contracts its services to municipalities without its own force, but all five agencies have mutual aid agreements that allow them to receive assistance from each other upon request. Both arrangements can also contribute to overtime, Brauser said.
Salary data obtained by Spotlight PA as part of a local transparency test found that the five police departments spent more than $11.5 million on compensation last year, including $650,571 in overtime. A State College detective took home nearly $34,000 in overtime, the most of any employee in the five local police departments.
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Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media. Subscribe to our free newsletters.
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