A Luzerne County councilman is questioning the use of county sheriff’s deputies to provide security at a recent political rally for Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, a move county officials defended as a necessary measure to keep the peace.
More than 11,000 attended Trump’s April 25 rally at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township.
Councilman Edward Brominski recently asked the county administration who authorized their deployment and picking up the tab for the non-county function.
According to a response from county acting Manager C. David Pedri:
County Sheriff Brian Szumski authorized the assignment of 10 deputies at the event at the request of the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department.
The law allows sheriff departments the option to assist law enforcement agencies when requested.
Szumski agreed to assist because it was a “public safety issue” with a high number of participants expected.
“Furthermore, there are important concerns over violent events that have unfortunately occurred across the country in recent years in public gatherings. Therefore, to prevent future occurrences and protect the people of the county, the more law enforcement present the better for our citizens,” Pedri wrote.
Township police requested assistance “maintaining safety and security” at the arena at 8:41 a.m. the morning of the rally because attendance was expected to exceed capacity.
Szumski notified all deputies of the event and sought volunteers. Pedri said five volunteered, and five were mandated to work.
Following a 3:30 p.m. briefing, the deputies were instructed to report to the township police command post for further instructions.
The county’s overtime cost was $1,647.14. A bill was forwarded to the township police department, which will submit the bill to the Trump campaign for reimbursement.
Brominski said he has received conflicting information that eight of the 10 deputies were mandated to work.
He sent a follow-up request for information, which was not immediately answered Friday, questioning how unionized deputies can be mandated to work overtime for a private event.
“If that was the case, why are they not mandated to work other events as large or maybe larger? There are private security agencies that could have provided 10 people at a minute’s notice,” Brominski said.
He also asked if taxpayers would have been forced to pay disability or medical expenses if one of the deputies was injured.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.