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Fort Worth Police Travel With Mayor To Australia On Taxpayer Tab

By Jack Douglas Jr.
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City of Fort Worth
CBS 11 Investigators
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FORT WORTH (CBS I-TEAM) - Fort Worth taxpayers paid more than $10,000 so that two city police officers, both unarmed, could travel seven days with Mayor Betsy Price to Australia, the CBS 11 I-Team has learned.

Each officer filed 58 hours in overtime, in addition to their regular pay, to provide “security” for Price during her visit to Australia, from April 5 to April 11, according to a source with direct knowledge of the cost to the city.

A sergeant traveling with Price was paid more than $3,900 in overtime, and an officer was paid $2,960 in OT, which, combined with their regular salaries, totaled more than $10,000, the source said.

The mayor’s burgeoning security detail, which has grown from two officers to six, including a supervising sergeant, has drawn criticism in the past from the Fort Worth Police Officers Association.

And an I-Team investigation last July revealed that security for Price had, by that time, cost taxpayers more than $380,000 since she took office in the summer of 2011.

The FWPOA has said the cost and scope of the security is not needed, especially at a time when the police department has faced budget and personnel cuts.

Instead of escorting the mayor to other countries, officers in Price’s security detail should be patrolling city streets, Steve Hall, who at the time was president of the FWPOA, told the I-Team in July.

“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,” Hall added.

The mayor declined an interview with the I-Team about her trip to Australia, or the need for a two-officer security detail.

In an email, her office said: “The mayor’s security detail assignments are handled by the police department, so they would be the people to direct any questions about those assignments.”

An official with the Fort Worth Department said it could not immediately comment about the mayor’s security in Australia – a country known to be relatively safe.

Price’s Australia visit was billed as a goodwill trip to, among other things, strengthen relationships between that country and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

The airport paid for the mayor’s travels.

Asked if DFW Airport also paid for travel expenses for her security officers, minus their city pay, spokesman David Magana said: “I think so.”

In her “Mayor’s Message” on the city’s website, dated April 4, the day before she left, Price wrote: “We’re off to the land down under again to wave the Fort Worth flag and expand awareness about DFW Airport – the gateway to America.”

She also said she would attend an energy industry conference in Perth because “the good people of Australia are very interested in the American energy production technologies being pioneered in Texas, and specifically
in Fort Worth.

“We’ll have a lot to talk about!”

Asked if Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings went to the conference and, if so, did he take along police officers for security, spokesman Sam Merten said in an email: “No. Mayor Rawlings is currently at City Hall running the Council meeting.”

If you want to reach CBS 11’s Senior Investigative Producer Jack Douglas Jr., you can email him at jdouglas@cbs.com.

(©2014 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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