Extra security during Thunder may not have blown the overtime bu - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Extra security during Thunder may not have blown the overtime budget

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Security was increased for the 25th annual Thunder Over Louisville. Security was increased for the 25th annual Thunder Over Louisville.
Chuck Higgins Chuck Higgins
LMPD spokesperson Dwight Mitchell LMPD spokesperson Dwight Mitchell
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Metro Police set aside $3.6 million to cover officers' overtime this fiscal year but mob violence at Waterfront Park prompted beefed-up security for Thunder Over Louisville. 

The fireworks may be the source of Thunder Over Louisville's fame but even before they fired for Thunder's 25th year, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the other elements that preceded, Throwback Thunder had made its name.

"This is the best since '09, I think," said Chuck Higgins, who'd brought his family down from Toledo, Ohio for the occasion.

"More than 650,000 people came down to the waterfront over the weekend in spite of what happened three weeks ago," said Dwight Mitchell, a spokesman for Louisville Metro Police. "That's a vote of confidence."

More than 1,100 law enforcement officers patrolled Waterfront Park and other Thunder venues this weekend, most of whom worked for LMPD.

So what likely prevented Thunder Over Louisville from blowing up the budget?

"Officers took off during the week, so the whole day wasn't overtime," Mitchell said. "At least for our folks in some instances."

Such logistical gymnastics could prove extremely prudent as the Kentucky Derby Festival kicks into high gear, with such community events as the Basketball Classic, the Marathon/Mini-Marathon, Balloonfest, the Great Steamboat Race, the Republic Bank Pegasus Parade, the Kentucky Oaks and the Derby itself. LMPD's yearly budget for overtime is $3.6 million.

"Obviously, we'll be looking at everything to make sure we have adequate personnel there," Mitchell said. "If we need additional somewhere we'll put additional there."

Many agencies, including Kentucky's National Guard, won't bill Louisville for its personnel expenses. The Guard's Thunder contingent counted 152 military police officers, 19 artillery crew members assisting the fireworks displays and 25 recruiters.

"We could have pressed all into service if need be," said Lt. Col. Kirk Hilbrecht, the Guard's public information officer. "This number is lower than it was last year."

LMPD made its request weeks before mob violence broke out on the Big Four Bridge in Waterfront Park and throughout downtown on March 22. Lt. Col. Hilbrecht said Monday. "All we were doing was helping tweak our plan, understanding some of the vulnerabilities that we saw."

Kentucky State Police adopted a strategy of high visibility, working the crowd in groups of three or more Troopers. KSP has not said now many Troopers were deployed.

Louisville also had help from 42 Derby Ambassadors, which are volunteers who serve as both guides and spotters.

The cumulative result? A Metro Louisville Mayor whose face showed relief, rather than grief, the morning after.

"It worked as planned," Mayor Greg Fischer said Sunday. "So it was a tremendous win for the community."

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