Sen. Witkos Advocates to Make Private Duty Police Service More Affordable for Non-Profits

February 12, 2015

Canton is giving non-profit groups a break on the cost of private duty police

Article as it appeared in the Hartford Courant

CANTON — How much non-profit groups have to pay for town police officers working private duty assignments at events those organizations put on has been cut.

Right now, any organization that needs a police officer to work a private duty assignment has to pay that officer’s salary for overtime work and hire them for at least four hours. In addition, the town charges fees that are a percentage of what the officer earns for administration, to cover the cost of the officer’s fringe benefits and if the officer uses a town police vehicles during the event. Those fees can amount to half of the total amount charged to groups or more.

When the board of selectmen met on Wednesday they decided to give non-profit groups a break. Officers will still have to be paid overtime if they work at a fundraiser or other event non-profits put on in town and an administrative fee. But the fee to cover fringe benefits will be waived, officials said.

“This is something we struggled with when we put the policy in place a few years ago,” said First Selectman Richard Barlow. “It is more of a burden on non-profit groups and hopefully this will take care of that.”

Town officials said they were responding to complaints from non-profit groups and others about the cost of putting on events in Canton because of the police private duty rates. That included state Sen. Kevin Witkos, who asked the selectmen to review the policy in January. Witkos said on Thursday the merchants association in Collinsville asked him to approach town officials about the idea. He said the group was thinking of putting on a 5k road race in Collinsville but hesitated because of the cost of private duty officers.

“People have been complaining about this for the longest time,” Witkos said. “No one complains about the officers’ salaries but the fees can be 50 percent of the total bill. Events like this are what make Canton special but the town is pricing it out.”

Kathy Taylor, a member of the merchants group, said Thursday they were interested in putting it on to promote Collinsville. She said the group reached out to the Hartford Marathon Foundation to put it on and that the foundation expressed concern about the cost of private duty officers.

A breakdown of the fees charged for police officers at several events that non-profit groups have held in town recently was presented to the selectmen. According to that analysis, the fees that are in addition to the officers’ salary can be half or even more of the total amount charged to those groups. Those events included the the annual Lobster Fest, which is a fundraiser for a town firefighters organization; the Lobster Loop, a fundraiser done by the parent-teacher organization at Canton Middle School; the Canton Historical Society’s Oktoberfest fundraiser and the annual Halloween parade in Collinsville.

In the case of the Lobster Fest, the officers’ salaries came to $845.70 while the fees were $908.44. In the case of the Oktoberfest, fees also were more than half of what the organizers were charged. The total bill for private duty police for that event was $468.54 and of that fees came to $241.20.