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Facing Budget Cuts, Police Question Security Costs For Mayor

By Mireya Villarreal & Jack Douglas Jr.
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FORT WORTH (CBS 11) - When you picture a police officer in action, you probably think of someone responding to a shooting … chasing a bad guy down an alley …or handing out a traffic ticket.

But in Fort Worth, being a police officer might also mean sitting on a camel in Dubai, hanging with the “blokes” in Australia or taking in the scenery in Brazil.

Such police duties are part of the job for the few Fort Worth officers who serve as the security detail for Mayor Betsy Price. And that detail, according to the city’s own records, has cost taxpayers more than $380,000 since Price took office in the summer of 2011.

That’s too much, says the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, especially in light of expected budget cuts that could eliminate 148 positions at the Fort Worth Police Department.

Steve Hall, president of the FWPOA, said that if the department is going to be asked to pull police from street patrols, the cuts should first come by scaling back Price’s security team, which Hall says does not always involve police work.

“They carry the mayor’s bag. They go get her aspirin when she needs some aspirin. They occasionally have been known to monitor her Facebook page (and) take photos of her,” said Steve Hall, President of the FWPOA.

Price told CBS 11’s I-Team that her security detail is needed because she has received threats since taking office.

“When I was campaigning for this role, I might have said I don’t know whether you need this security detail or not,” the mayor told the I-Team, adding: “But this is not a perfect world that we live in and there are credible threats.”

Records obtained by CBS 11 show that when Mayor Price traveled to places like Dubai, Australia and Brazil to promote the city and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, she took along a member of her security detail.

In contrast, a spokesperson for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says he does not take along a Dallas police officer when he travels out of the country. However, unlike Fort Worth, the Dallas Police Department declined to say how much it spends on protecting Rawlings from possible threats.

In far North Fort Worth, Ellie Fowler, who runs a child-care center, expressed concern when told that budget cuts may result in fewer officers on the streets.

“I don’t see where that logic is,” Fowler said. “I think when there are more people around, you need to have that assurance that there is going to be protection provided as well,’’ she said.

If you want to reach CBS 11′s Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you may email him at jdouglas@cbs.com. If you want to reach CBS 11′s Investigative reporter Mireya Villarreal, you may email her at m.villarreal@cbs.com.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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