University of Washington police put in 200 hours of overtime at a cost of $20,007 while Seattle police sent 95 officers, who logged nearly 750 hours and $55,335 in overtime costs.
Political provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos didn’t charge a speaking fee when he visited the University of Washington in January. But the event wasn’t free for Seattle taxpayers.
The UW and the Seattle Police Department dispatched 124 police officers to the Jan. 20 event, where protests turned violent and one person was shot and wounded. The officers put in almost 1,000 hours of overtime that day at a combined cost of more than $75,000, according to records and interviews.
That cost doesn’t include equipment, meals and law enforcement’s continuing investigation into the shooting. Still, the one-day overtime charge ranks among the UW Police Department’s most expensive events in recent years.
Yiannopoulos, a former editor at Breitbart News, came to UW at the invitation of the College Republicans. The student club reimbursed the university $9,120 from funds it had raised for the event. The point, club members say, was to promote free speech.
“I did not expect the protests to be that bad,” said Karen Huang, a 20-year-old junior who is the club’s president. “We did not ask for the protests,” she added.
Norm Arkans, a UW spokesman, said the security was effective with the exception of the shooting. “We have the utmost respect for our registered student groups and their right to invite speakers of their choosing,” he said. “We are committed to providing a safe environment for such events to occur.”
UW President Ana Mari Cauce has defended the decision to host Yiannopoulos as an exercise of free speech. But she did not hide her distaste for his commentary on public television earlier this month.
“The truth is freedoms can be abused, and he’s someone who’s done that,” she said in a March 1 appearance on the Seattle Channel.
Yiannopoulos spoke to about 200 students in Kane Hall for about an hour, taking aim at political progressives, feminists and academics who condemn hate speech.
“There is no definition of hate speech, there’s just things you don’t like to hear,” he said at one point, calling the UW “one of the most repulsively left-wing campuses in all of the United States.”
Yiannopoulos didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The UW dispatched 29 of its officers, who put in 200 hours of overtime at a cost of $20,007. The Seattle Police Department, under its mutual-aid agreement with the UW, sent 95 officers, who logged nearly 750 hours and $55,335 in overtime costs.
Few recent UW events have been as costly. The Seattle Times requested billing records from UW police for the most expensive campus events in the past decade. The university provided figures for home Husky football games since 2013. University officers billed for just above $20,000 in overtime for the most expensive games; the average came out to $15,000.
The UW has hosted other prominent speakers that involved a robust police presence, such as former President Barack Obama’s visit to campus in 2010, but a police spokesman declined to say how much that visit cost. “We have no records available for a comparison,” Maj. Steve Rittereiser said.
For the Seattle Police Department, the cost of assisting with the Yiannopoulos event was comparable to the resources it provided for Obama’s visit to the UW. SPD officers billed a total of $57,000 in overtime over two days around the presidential visit, slightly more than they charged on one day for the Yiannopoulos speech.
The department’s highest one-day overtime cost for an event in the past decade was for the May Day protests last year, for which officers billed $539,318.
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Yiannopoulos has since come under fire for remarks that appeared to condone pedophilia, resulting in the Conservative Political Action Conference rescinding a speaking invitation, Simon & Schuster canceling publication of his book, and leading him to resign from Breitbart News. He later said he doesn’t condone sexual abuse of minors.
Huang, the president of the UW College Republicans, said she did not regret inviting Yiannopoulos despite the controversy. “Just because you don’t agree with one person on something doesn’t mean the rest of what he says is irrelevant,” she said.
She praised the police officers for protecting students.
“Police officers’ jobs are to make people safe,” she said, “and that’s what they did that day.”