DENVER (CBS4) – A CBS4 investigation has found members of the Denver Police Department’s Honor Guard have been routinely paid thousands of dollars in overtime during Broncos home games to carry the flag for a few minutes before the games, a practice Denver’s new police chief is curtailing.
“I just don’t think it’s the best use of taxpayer dollars,” said Denver Police Chief Robert White after learning of the CBS4 investigation.
Honor Guards from various military branches, police and fire departments march on the field, carrying the flag for the National Anthem before Broncos games. Their duties are completed before the game begins.
The CBS4 probe found that the five members of the DPD Honor Guard taking part in the pregame ceremony were each being given two free tickets to get in the game, according to the city, and then were each billing taxpayers for as much as five hours of time-and-a-half overtime each game. That’s roughly the equivalent of receiving a full day’s pay for a ceremony that one military honor guard member told CBS4 takes less than two minutes — the length of the National Anthem.
“So Denver taxpayers were paying thousands of dollars for these guys to watch a football game?” White was asked.
“Yeah, they were being paid to watch the football game,” White responded. “We will no longer be paying time-and-a-half for officers to do that. I think they went into it saying, ‘This is the way it’s always been done.’ But that doesn’t make it right. If we’re wrong, we’re wrong.”
After learning what the CBS4 investigation found, White conducted his own internal probe and then ordered an end to the overtime payments for his honor guard appearances at Broncos games.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department also has an honor guard that marches at Rockies games, Avalanche games, and other athletic events. But Jefferson County says their honor guard members don’t do it for the money.
“They don’t accept comp time or overtime for these special events,” said Jacki Kelley of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. “They consider it an honor to be at those large venues to do something they consider very special. They get a ticket and consider that payment enough.”
The Denver Sheriff’s Department also has an honor guard which performs at occasional sporting events like Avs games.
“The members of the honor guard do not receive overtime to participate in a performance at a professional sporting event, and the officers perform at these events when they are off duty,” said Mary Dulacki, Records Coordinator for Denver’s Manager of Safety.
Dulacki said the Denver sheriff’s honor guard members receive an additional $100 per month under the collective bargaining agreement for performing at funerals, promotion ceremonies, academy class graduations and other official city events.
Multiple honor guards from Buckley Air Force Base typically march prior to the games as well. Technical Sgt. Wolfram Stumpf, Flight Chief for the Mile High Honor Guard, told CBS4, “The members of each team volunteer their time” and receive one ticket to enter the game and $20 in ‘Bronco Bucks’ to spend on food and/or the retail shops.”
The DPD Chief says he supports his department’s honor guard appearing at the Broncos games but not at the present overtime cost. He said the department is looking at other options to get the honor guard back on the field, such as having them schedule their work days for Sundays or have the Broncos pay for their services.
White said commanders are “having conversations with the honor guard and informed them of their decision and are offering other alternatives that would not incur an expense on taxpayers at the rate of time-and-a-half.”
“I was a bit surprised,” said Chief White.
He lauded the DPD Honor Guard for being good at what they do and said they practice and train for the pregame march. But for a department trying to cut costs and save money, White said, “I don’t think that’s something taxpayers should have to pay time-and-a-half for the officers to do.”
– Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com