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Cops' time costs $75 per hour at events

Someone told me that the Medford Police Department charges $5,000 for its escort service to control traffic for the annual motorcyclists' Christmas toy run, which is conducted to benefit needy children. Is this true? It's hard to believe they couldn't find some way to donate their services. Surely there are enough off-duty officers willing to help out on a voluntary basis for such a worthy cause.

— Harry H., via e-mail

While there is a premium for Medford police escort and security services, police should not be deemed the Scrooge of the event.

"We'd like to be able to do it, but fiscally we just can't, and the city just can't afford to do that for every organization," said Medford police Lt. Bob Hansen.

Each year the City Council authorizes a handful of events to be sponsored with police services, including "Red, White & Boom," the Pear Blossom parade and the Medford Jazz Jubilee.

"If we did it for every nonprofit, fundraising or other group that wants to have an event, that would cost a lot of money," said Hansen.

While many Good Samaritan officers might be willing to donate their time to charitable causes, they are not legally permitted to work off-duty as police officers.

"Say we're working security someplace (off-duty) and someone comes in and is acting disorderly," explained Hansen. "We tell them to leave, and they don't. Are we working as security or as a police officer? We're not being paid as a police officer, but we're taking action as a police officer."

Furthermore, even if they could donate their services, officers still would require their uniforms, vehicles and other equipment, which belongs to and is insured through the city of Medford. (Think liability.)

For escort, security or traffic control for an event, the department charges about $75 per hour, per officer.

While some charity events such as the annual Polar Plunge or "Tip A Cop" depend on off-duty police participation, officers are not acting as cops but as civilians, Hansen said.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.