Tens of thousands of people flow into LSU’s campus on a handful of Saturdays every fall. It’s a significant swell of passionate football fans that demands a proportional influx of law enforcement officers from various Baton Rouge-area agencies.
They can be seen riding horses and directing traffic, monitoring tailgates and leading the school’s famous marching band into Tiger Stadium.
And to hire them all costs the LSU Athletic Department a pretty penny, an expense that has steadily grown in recent years — particularly this season, as officials try to implement new traffic procedures, an initiative demanding police officers at many busy intersections around campus.
The Baton Rouge Police Department, which contracts with the athletic department to provide police officers during game days, will receive $50,760 per game this year in exchange for supplying nearly 170 officers to help out during home football games, according to figures provided by BRPD and the LSU Athletic Department.
That’s up about 10 percent from the $45,900 a game BRPD received last season and the season before for its services. It’s also an increase of about 33 percent from the $38,700 it received per game in 2010.
Mark Ewing, LSU’s senior athletic director for finance, attributed this year’s jump to the efforts by parking and traffic officials to implement new procedures — including more contraflow than in the past — which requires a heavier police presence to direct traffic.
But BRPD is just one of a handful of agencies that assists the LSU Police Department with securing the campus and surrounding areas during game days, with the grand total for security expenses expected to top $1 million.
Last fall, the most recent season with available budget numbers for other agencies, the LSU Athletic Department paid more than $600,000 to officers with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Police, the Department of Public Safety Police and the Baton Rouge City Constable’s Office for off-duty policing, according to figures provided by the athletic department. Law enforcement representatives said the officers typically receive a $40 per hour salary for the work.
“They all do a good job,” said Ewing. “And they all want to make sure the event runs as smooth as possible.”
Ewing said the costs of providing security for football games has steadily risen over the years, especially since Sept. 11, 2001. The athletic department beefed up security inside the stadium after the terrorist attacks, reflecting a nationwide increased focus on security, especially during events entertaining hordes of people that could be potential targets.
In addition, growing crowds, requests to put police officers in new places and an increase in the hourly pay for off-duty officers has driven up the costs of securing Tiger Stadium on game days, Ewing said.
For Baton Rouge police officers, the games serve as a chance to walk a new beat, meet new people and, of course, earn some extra money.
“Most officers begin working LSU and Southern University games early in their career,” said Sgt. Mary Ann Godawa, a Baton Rouge police spokeswoman. “And most officers continue working these games throughout their careers.”
Much like policing a neighborhood, the officers get to know people who tailgate in their sections of campus or who sit in their area of the stadium, she said.
“There’s a little bit of loyalty that goes along with it,” Godawa said. She sometimes works LSU games on horseback for the department’s mounted patrol division.
Ultimately, the officers’ job is to keep people safe and make sure everyone enjoys the game and all the pre- and post-game festivities that go along with it.
In all, anywhere from 350 to 400 officers work game days at LSU, including every one of LSU’s police officers at one time or another, said Capt. Cory Lalonde, an LSUPD spokesman.
The work begins Thursday night or Friday morning and doesn’t end until Sunday, when most of what remains of the raucous crowd are masses of litter.
“Keeping the campus safe is a tremendous responsibility,” said Capt. Doug Cain, a State Police spokesman. “Whether it’s the external threats that we all know are out there to traffic management to pedestrian safety to underage drinking.”
Cain — who for about 15 years escorted visiting coaches to and from the football field, then worked in the suites before giving it up to spend more time with his wife and daughters — said police officers on campus must be on high alert. A small situation can spiral out of control quickly in an environment where officers are enormously outnumbered, he said.
Southern’s athletic department did not respond to requests for budget information on how much it pays officers from the nine agencies working extra-duty details during home football games.
The department hires about 160 officers to patrol campus on game days, said Southern Police Chief Joycelyn Johnson. Just as with LSU’s department, all of Southern’s police officers must work at some point during home football game weekends, she said.
Lt. Floyd Williams, of the Southern Police Department, who helps coordinate policing efforts on the school’s campus during home football games, said law enforcement’s primary job is to ensure fans do not become crime victims.
They also monitor campus for gang activity or any other suspicious activity and try to remove anyone involved in it from the campus to ensure everyone’s safety, Williams said.
“We are ready to respond in any given emergency situation,” he said.
Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter, @_BenWallace.