Local News

Per-hour pay hike means no more Raleigh officers at State Fair

Posted May 26, 2011 2:34 p.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2011 6:16 p.m. EDT

— They have been a fixture at the North Carolina State Fair for 30 years, but beginning this fall, Raleigh police officers will no longer be doing double duty protecting fairgoers.

The fair typically employs 75 to 100 Raleigh officers to work security each year, but a change in per-hour pay has put an end to that long-held relationship.

Last year, the fair paid officers an hourly rate of $26.68 and planned to increase that to $29.35 this year. However, Raleigh police created a secondary employment policy, which says any officer working off-duty must make $35 per hour.

The new police policy doesn't go into effect until 2012, but fair officials said they wanted to begin the transition this year and get new security personnel in place.

State Fairgrounds Police Chief Joel Keith says he considers Raleigh officers to be part of the "State Fair family" and that he's sad to see them go.

"They have to make a business decision about what they think their rate ought to be for off-duty (work). And likewise, we have to make a business decision without compromising public safety at the same time," Keith said.

Wake County sheriff's deputies will fill most of the security vacancies, according to Keith.

Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan said the decision to institute a $35-per-hour fee was decided two years ago.

"(The policy) ensures that off-duty employers are treated equitably and that our sworn personnel are compensated appropriately for the exceptionally high-quality services they perform," Dolan said in a statement. "The rate of pay is non-negotiable in order to avoid the negative professional aspects of appearing to bid against other police and security service providers."

The local Teamsters Union, which represents several hundred Raleigh police officers, calls the change "unfortunate."

"The officers' families (rely on) this income to support their cost of living," said Teamsters spokesman Chris Roth. "It is a deep concern (among officers)."

The State Fair paid Raleigh police officers:

  • $389,439 in 2010
  • $413,811 in 2009
  • $368,717 in 2008

In total, the State Fair paid the following amounts for all security personnel, which includes Raleigh police, Wake sheriff's deputies and State Fairgrounds police:

  • $691,535 in 2010
  • $690,045 in 2009
  • $489,070 in 2008

Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen said there's plenty of work to go around and that the officers' new per-hour rate is competitive.

Fair officials say security remains a top priority and that the only change the public will notice is the lack of blue Raleigh police uniforms.