Extra Police Keep The Peace At Tulsa's Mayfest

Thursday, May 15th 2014, 10:32 pm
By: Tess Maune

Many were downtown Thursday for the opening of Mayfest, and extra police patrols were keeping visitors safe.

Last month, we told you the Tulsa Police Department pays officers millions in overtime. A lot of that overtime is earned at special events, like concerts and festivals. In this case, tax dollars are not going toward the overtime; the festival forks over its own cash to pay for security.

4/22/2014 Related Story: Records Show Some Tulsa Officers Earn Thousands In Overtime

The artwork is in place, people are shopping, and 25 off-duty police officers are on patrol.

Corporal Chris Bauer with Tulsa Police, said, "It bodes better that you have police out here instead of a security guard, just because we have more power."

Bauer has been working Mayfest nearly 25 years, and while he is in uniform, he's technically on vacation.

"What a lot of guys do, like myself, we take vacation days to work it," he said.

Mayfest said it pays officers 25,000 for event security. A small price, organizers say, to keep the streets, and artwork, safe.

"A few disappear every now and then, but it's not much," said Missouri artist, Dennis Thompson.

Thompson brings his unique sculptures to shows all over the U.S.

"I'm a frustrated paleontologist, I guess. Most people see this and they go straight to fantasy, but it really has more to do with paleontology," Thompson said.

Mayfest tops his list. He hasn't missed a festival in 36 years.

"Almost since the thing's been in operation, so I've seen pretty much every storm Oklahoma has to throw at me," said Thompson.

Storms aren't all Thompson has seen. Some of the patrons put on more of a show than the show itself.

"I've seen some pretty rowdy late-night parties here," he said.

Rowdy crowds and fragile artwork, of course, don't mix, but that's another art Thompson has mastered.

"These days we close down the art section earlier, so we really don't deal with that so much," he said.

Police said those who have a few too many drinks cause the most problems, and after that, officers are keeping an eye out for purse snatchers, shop-lifters and transients.

"We really don't have any major problems out here," Bauer said.

Mayfest doesn't pay the city, the festival pays officers directly. Some of them work 16 hour shifts and make about $25 an hour for the side job.

There are about four bicycle cops who will be sent out occasionally, but I'm told those officers will likely only get a couple hours of overtime.