Local police spent over $170,000 on overtime for one day of University of Illinois’ Gaza protests

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Dozens of police officers from Champaign, Urbana, Mahomet, and the Champaign County Sheriff’s office joined the University of Illinois Police Department to respond to the encampment demanding the University divest from Israel on Friday, April 26. / Photo by Farrah Anderson

Police departments throughout Champaign County paid out $171,457 in overtime costs to officers who responded to one day of protests at the University of Illinois over the war in Gaza, according to data obtained by CU-CitizenAccess from Freedom of Information Act requests.  

The long day of protests on April 26 at the Alma Mater at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus ended late Friday night after pro-Palestinian students and officials at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reached a resolution. The protesters were calling for the university to divest from investments in companies involved with the Israeli military.

At least five police departments were dispatched to campus protests — including the Champaign Police Department, the Urbana Police Department, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, the Mahomet Police Department and the University of Illinois Public Department. 

The University of Illinois Police Department paid the most overtime with $120,005, records show. Urbana police paid $35,433 and the Champaign police paid $10,540 in overtime to officers and staff responding to the protests. The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office paid $4,830 and Mahomet police paid $647.

While the University of Illinois Police Department was the only department that arrested protesters and pushed through barriers into the encampment, other responding departments sent officers to monitor the situation. Officers from the various departments stood outside the protest holding riot gear and cans of pepper spray. Others helped evacuate the Illini Union while protest organizers and university administration negotiated inside. 

The costs of overtime for University police officers and staff — which totaled just over $120,000, did not increase the additional overtime needed or projected by the department for the future, according to the department.

“I would not say that the amount of overtime in this incident exceeds the limits we have and would represent only a portion of the overall overtime we budget for considering our other operations,” University of Illinois Police Department Lieutenant Jason Bradley wrote in an emailed statement. 

Police departments throughout the country have paid out billions of dollars in overtime costs responding to protests about the conflict in Gaza since Oct. 7, the most recent flare in tensions between Israel and Palestine. As of May 9, the NYPD paid out over $53 million on overtime pay responding to protests since Oct. 7. 

The Champaign Police Department estimates overtime expenses in the city’s budget for each fiscal year.  The protests on campus in support of Palestine, fall under emergency response overtime, according to a statement from the department.  

According to the department, Champaign is currently within its budget for overtime for fiscal year 2023-2024.

“The data in the responsive document reflects the overtime rate for each employee who either responded to the incident or were called in to backfill the department’s Patrol Division while other personnel remained on-scene,” a Champaign Police spokesperson responded in an emailed statement. “This ensured the Champaign Police Department's ability to efficiently respond to calls for service throughout our community while also providing the requested assistance to the University of Illinois Police Department.”

Employee pay rates for patrol officers, detectives, and sergeants are determined by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement or the City’s Salary Schedule, according to the department. 

Individual pay rates are based on several factors, including bargaining unit, years of service, rank, assignment within the department, and special duties, such as additional pay for field training officers. Because of this, a more senior officer in an assigned position, like a detective or field training officer, would reflect a difference in pay from an officer early in their career. 

Two people were arrested at the protests for their involvement in the protests — including pro-Palestinian protestor Chris Zelle. Zelle has been charged with 3 counts of felony charges, including one count of mob action and two counts of aggravated battery against a police officer. 

Another pro-Palestinian protestor, George Vassilatos faced preliminary misdemeanor charges of mob action. 

Farrah Anderson is an investigative reporting fellow with the Invisible Institute and Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @farrahsoa.

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  1. Chris Evans

    How is George Vassilatos only being charged with a misdemeanor?

  2. Mark Felt

    It would be interesting to see how many students were expelled over this. My guess is ZERO!