City pays for Raleigh police travel for race preparation

ccampbell@newsobserver.comDecember 10, 2013 

— To prepare for next April’s Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, Raleigh police officers spent several days in two other cities that host the event – trips that cost the department $1,367.

Records of the trips contradict claims from the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau that the for-profit marathon won’t use any city tax dollars. The news also adds to complaints from the local running community that the national event is getting special treatment that isn’t offered to homegrown races.

Shortly after the February announcement that Raleigh would join 30 Rock ’n’ Roll cities worldwide, the police department sent three officers from its special operations division to Nashville, Tenn., for a three-day visit to the race. Rock ’n’ Roll footed the bill for the officers’ hotel stays at the downtown Hilton, but the department paid $1,203 for airfare, car rental, meals and parking.

Then on Aug. 30, two officers make a two-day trek to Virginia Beach, Va., to observe another Rock ’n’ Roll event. That trip cost the department $164, with Rock ’n’ Roll again covering hotel expenses.

“In both instances, RPD personnel familiarized themselves with the security and traffic management measures employed by the respective police agencies in those cities, observed the coordination present between law enforcement agencies and race organizers, and noted other information that might assist in planning the upcoming event in Raleigh,” department spokesman Jim Sughrue wrote in an email.

But critics of the Rock ‘n’ Roll event question why the police trips were needed, pointing out that Raleigh police have handled marathon logistics for years.

City of Oaks Marathon chairman Jim Micheels has added more off-duty police officers as the number of runners has grown, spending $16,000 on law enforcement this year with 4,300 runners participating.

“I wouldn’t think it (Rock ’n’ Roll) would be handled much differently,” he said. “You need an officer at every traffic light.”

Micheels also wonders why Rock ’n’ Roll wasn’t willing to pay the officers’ airfare and expenses. “If they’re trying to sell it to Raleigh, I would think that they would foot the bill for that,” he said.

It’s unclear how many additional officers will be employed for Rock ’n’ Roll; the marathon will draw more runners than City of Oaks with 7,500 participants, but Sughrue wouldn’t say what the police presence will look like, noting that the department doesn’t “publicly disclose security-related information.”

The Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, a division of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, negotiated the contract for Rock ’n’ Roll and pitched in $125,000 from hotel tax revenues. The group said no city dollars would be used for the race, which is expected to draw about $2 million in tourism spending.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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