Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Guarding Obama's House: The REAL Costs

It has been 258 days since Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Since that day, the City of Chicago has spent at least $2.2 million keeping his south side home secure.

Now I know what you're about to say. It's the home of the President of the United States. The government has an obligation to keep him and his family safe. And I agree. The problem is that he is the Commander in Chief of the Federal Government, and all $2.2 million of that security has been paid for directly by the City of Chicago.

We Chicagoans are reassured, however, according to Jacquelyn Heard, that "...the federal government will fully reimburse us for all costs associated with protecting President Obama in Chicago." One wonders quite simply then, from where within the federal ranks will the reimbursement come? The first option would seem to be the Secret Service. Sadly, that appears to be a dead end.

Darrin Blackford, U.S. Secret Service spokesman, said it is "not equipped or funded" to provide reimbursement. "We rely heavily on the assistance we receive from our law-enforcement partners."
In fact, we are told by the City's Office of Legal Affairs that "There is no reimbursement mechanism currently in place for this [post-inauguration] money." Indeed, when we look at the article as a whole, it appears that the only money the federal government intends to reimburse the City of Chicago for is that $1.5 million spent to secure the premises between the election and the inauguration.

That total works out to be $19,736.84 per day, by the way.

We are told relating to that whopping sum that

Police Department spokesman Roderick Drew said the department spent the money to pay officers overtime to secure only the Obama residence, but he could not go into detail about how many officers were assigned to the house.
Well thankfully I'm able to do some simple math, and I'll even be very fair. Assuming the officers assigned to the security detail were reasonably experienced, and had been with the force for at least 2.5 years, they were making a total of $63,616 per year, including duties and uniform allowances. Let's assume they actually cost the City 30% more than that in benefits, for a total of $82,700 per year. On a normal pay scale, that works out to a base-salary of $30.58 per hour, and a total base cost of $39.76 per hour. Assuming time-and-a-half for overtime hours that were indicated by Drew to be the driving costs, the base-salary becomes $45.88 per hour, yielding a total base cost of $55.05 after adding the benefits.

Let's assume the home was secured 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that officers were rotated in such a manner that one shift was regular time, followed by two shifts of overtime. Our equation to determine the number of officers involved then looks like this:

($39.76/HR)*(8HR)*(X) + ($55.05/HR)*(8HR)(16HR)*(X) = $19,736.84

and we find that X = 26.02 16.46

That's 26 16 officers. Every single hour of the day for 76 days. And if there was less overtime paid, it means even MORE officers of the Chicago Police Department were assigned to watch his home. Now obviously I've left out the daily cost of food, fuel, equipment, etc. But comparative to the daily cost of the officers, these costs are minimal, so we are still looking at well over 20 probably 12 or 14 officers every hour assigned to what is a relatively peaceful area of the city.

And what about since Barack Obama was inaugurated and moved into the White House? The City spent another $650,000 through the end of April, coincidentally the duration of the "First 100 Days." That's another $6500 per day. It makes sense that the cost would be far less money every day considering the house is empty now. But the City is unwilling to tell us what those dollars have been spent on. If we use our same equation, we are left with X = 8.56 5.42. That's eight five police officers dedicated to securing an empty house, every single hour of the day.

And here is our real cost. Where was the Secret Service between the election and the inauguration? Why did the City have to allocate more than 20 14 police officers every hour of every day to this cause, without even knowing for sure that it could ever possibly be reimbursed? And how does the City justify allocating eight five officers every hour of every day to guarding an empty building? With a police force that is dwindling in numbers every year, and that requires officers to fill in the gaps on off-duty hours for overtime to begin with, who is making the decision to allocate this many resources to what is essentially an empty box full of furniture?

Not that I should expect an answer as a subject in the Kingdom of Daley.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that my equation was incorrect. Given my stated assumptions, the $55.05 needed to be multiplied by 16 hours, not 8. Therefore X = 16.46 in the first term, and 5.42 in the second term.

Not quite as egregious, but egregious nonetheless.

Apologies for the initial mistake.

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