NOPD Will Need Extra Hands To Manage Mardi Gras 2022

MGD Napoleon Av 2012 NOPD Horses” by Infrogmation is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The City of New Orleans is going to need extra help from officers working for other law enforcement agencies to manage next year’s Mardi Gras festivities. According to a source inside the Cantrell administration, Mayor Cantrell and Chief Shaun Ferguson have already made a decision to establish a single parade route that begins at Napoleon Avenue and Magazine Streets, travels down St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street, makes a right turn toward the Mississippi River, crosses in front of Harrah’s Casino and ends by Poydras and Tchoupitoulas Streets. Even with the additional officers, the city is not expected to have the manpower to provide parade security beyond that point, the sources said. 

Mardi Gras organizations such as Endymion which traditionally holds its ball at the Superdome will have to hire their own security – perhaps motorcycle units – to escort their floats and riders down Poydras Street. Another krewe that will be similarly impacted is Zulu which has a history of traveling through both the Central City and Treme neighborhoods. 

Agencies which are expected to provide officers to supplement the NOPD this Mardi Gras season include the police forces from Tulane, Xavier, Delgado and SUNO as well as deputies currently working for Sheriff Marlin Gusman and the Louisiana State Police. Some insiders estimate that up to 200 additional officers will be needed. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto may reduce his department’s presence at Mardi Gras in 2022 due to complaints about over-aggressive policing last year. 

The whole issue of parade security came to light last weekend after Mayor Cantrell shortened the Krewe of Boo parade route due to a lack of available NOPD officers. Working the parade was a detail offered through the NOPD’s Office of Police Secondary Employment rather than through regular work shifts. Many younger NOPD offices value their free time and are not interested in working extra details. Critics have been complaining about the extra income some offices have made in recent years from detail assignments. If more officers were willing to work details, the work assignment could be spread around more evenly. 

Because of the low response to the Krewe of Boo detail request, it’s believed that commanders from the seven NOPD districts were invited to work the parade themselves and bring along three commissioned officers to also assist with the tasks at hand. Despite these measures, more than 30 additional officers could have been used at the parade. 

The NOPD has been chronically understaffed since Hurricane Katrina when Mayor Mitch Landrieu postponed recruitment classes due to the city’s budget crisis. Despite significant police staffing shortages immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Mardi Gras parades ran on their normal routes in 2006. If recruitment has been a high priority by the current administration, the results still remain disappointing.  

A new class of approximately 25 NOPD recruits recently started training but only half of the class still remains. Attorney Donovan Livicari, who represents the Fraternal Order of Police, told WWL on Monday that he estimates 125 police officers have left the department since January, 2021. He estimates that for every new hire, two officers are departing. 

COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida have added to the low morale local police have been feeling for the last several years. NOPD officers say that they are underpaid and underappreciated. Many leave the force to work for other police agencies which offer higher salaries and better working conditions. 

Mardi Gras krewe leaders are on pins and needles waiting for a formal announcement from city officials on a firm route and potential COVID precautions. With the Carnival season starting in about nine weeks, the krewes are ready to present the best parades possible, despite supply chain delays and other issues like police staffing. Yet, Mardi Gras krewes are resilient and ready to adapt as necessary. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” said one Krewe captain.

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