Each year in September, the population of one part of Oklahoma City swells by hundreds of thousands for 11 days. In 2006, a million people attended the 100th State Fair of Oklahoma " and this year, it's expected that the Centennial Expo version of the state fair will top 1 million in attendance.
All patrolled by Oklahoma City police officers on almost 700 shifts. While a small number of these officers are off-duty, the majority of them are drawn from on-duty officers, decreasing police manpower by as much as 30 percent.
"It's a double-edged sword," said Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Kirby. "It's an event that is occurring in our city that we have to give protection to. "¦ At the same time, we don't want to lower the level of response on the street to the rest of our citizens."
Who is paying for it? Not the state fair, a private 501(c)(3) entity. Oklahoma City taxpayers are. Why does the fair get a free ride?
According to state fair spokesman Scott Munz, the massive influx of people to the fair is a strong enough reason that Oklahoma City should provide police presence at no cost to the fair.
"There is a population shift within the city out to here, to the 435 acres during the fair, and the police come out here to provide a safe and secure environment, just like they would anywhere else in the city," Munz said. "Ben Fenwick