How to spend $1 billion on security

I’m happy to be in Vancouver not my home town of Toronto right now. Turning Toronto into a police state for a few days at the cost of $1 billion hardly seems like a good use of public funds, especially when we know the final communique will preach fiscal belt tightening.

But what does $1 billion of security look like? During February’s Olympics close to $1 billion was spent on security, and that was for 17 days plus construction and tear-down of security perimeters on numerous venues in Vancouver and Whistler. And still it seemed like phenomenal overkill — police at every transit station, and on almost every corner downtown, plus helicopters flying over all the time. In Toronto, for a G-20 event that is much shorter and confined in space, how does one get to $1 billion?

The math is boggling when you consider that security is mostly people on the ground keeping eyes open for bad guys. Let’s assume a police officer is working overtime at a lofty rate of $1,000 per day (actual cost would be much lower), and they work five consecutive days before, during and after the event, for $5,000 per warm body. To get to $1 billion implies a force of 200,000 police officers. Now, I’m guessing that a lot of the money is actually spent on technology, in the form of surveillance cameras, airport screening units and computer systems — most of these are capital costs that police are going to want to use long after the event.

So what is up? It will be interesting to see the accounting on this summit after the fact.

One comment

  • Having participated in yesterday’s march, I can provide anecdotal confirmation that the security was pretty impressive. But I have no insight on how they got over a billion dollars.

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