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Friday, December 26, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 33.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
The Daily
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Wisconsin Capitol protest costs: How much, who will pay?
DeSpain: 'It's going to cost a lot of money.'
DeSpain: 'It's going to cost a lot of money.'
Credit:Narayan Mahon

The outpouring of democracy around the Capitol since early last week won't come cheap. To judge by the huge numbers of law enforcement officers on hand, it's easy to imagine that the costs will run into the millions of dollars, but affixing a price tag is difficult.

Multiple police agencies have been called to help with crowd control. On Tuesday alone the Capitol was protected by cops from 35 law enforcement agencies, including Madison police and Dane County sheriff's deputies.

According to spokesperson Elise Schaffer, the Dane County Sheriff's Office had 43 officers assisting with the call up on Tuesday, comparable to most recent days. But many were already on duty, so she couldn't provide a cost estimate.

"It's too early to throw out numbers," she says. "Depending on when it ends, it might take us a couple of weeks to come up with an estimate."

Joel DeSpain, a spokesman for MPD, says the department had 120 officers working on Saturday in the downtown district, when it would typically have about 15. But most of those officers were shuffled from other precincts and units, and weren't on overtime. Only 16 were called in on their days off, and they can choose to take overtime pay or comp time -- the department won't know which until next week.

Regardless, DeSpain adds, "it's going to cost a lot of money."

Which begs the question of who will pay for it. Carla Vigue, a spokesperson for the state Department of Administration, which oversees the Capitol police, says it's a mystery to her: "I don't know how it works."

No one else seems to know, either.

"At any time there's mutual aid, I think the state would usually be on the hook for it," says Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. "But this is a historic event, and I'm not sure how it'll be dealt with."

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