The city of New Orleans is going to need additional help from officers working for other law enforcement agencies to manage next year’s Mardi Gras festivities. According to a source in the Cantrell administration, Mayor Cantrell and Chief Shaun Ferguson have already made the decision to establish a unique parade route that begins at Napoleon Avenue and Magazine Streets, runs down St. Charles Avenue to ‘at Canal Street, turn right onto the Mississippi River, cross past the Harrah Casino, and end at Poydras and Tchoupitoulas streets. Even with the additional officers, the city should not have the manpower to provide security for the parade beyond this point, the sources said.
Mardi Gras organizations such as Endymion, which traditionally hosts its ball at the Superdome, will need to hire their own security – perhaps motorcycle units – to escort their tanks and racers down Poydras Street. Another community that will be similarly affected is Zulu, which is used to traveling through the Central City and Treme neighborhoods.
Agencies expected to provide officers to complete the NOPD this Mardi Gras season include the Tulane, Xavier, Delgado and SUNO Police Force as well as deputies currently working for Sheriff Marlin Gusman and the Louisiana State Police. Some insiders estimate that up to 200 additional agents will be needed. Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto could reduce his department’s presence at Mardi Gras in 2022 due to complaints about overly aggressive police last year.
The whole issue of parade safety 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 by the NOPD Police Secondary Employment Office rather than regular shifts. Many younger NOPD offices enjoy their free time and are not interested in working on extra details. Critics have complained about the additional revenue some offices have generated in recent years through retail assignments. If more officers were willing to work on the details, the work assignment could be distributed more evenly.
Due to the low response rate to Krewe of Boo’s detailed request, it is believed that the commanders of the seven districts of the NOPD were asked to participate in the parade themselves and bring three commissioned officers to also help with the tasks at hand. Despite these measures, more than 30 additional officers could have been used in the parade.
The NOPD has been chronically understaffed since Hurricane Katrina, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu postponed recruiting courses due to the city’s budget crisis. Despite significant shortages of police personnel immediately after Hurricane Katrina, the Mardi Gras parades continued on their normal routes in 2006. While recruiting has been a high priority by the current administration, the results remain disappointing.
A new class of about 25 NOPD recruits recently started training, but only half the class remains. Lawyer Donovan Livicari, who represents the Fraternal Order of Police, told WWL on Monday that he estimated 125 police officers had left the department since January 2021. He estimates that for every new hire, two police officers leave.
COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida added to the low morale that local police have been feeling for several years. NOPD agents say they are underpaid and underrated. Many leave the force to work for other police services which offer higher wages and better working conditions.
Mardi Gras krewe leaders await an official announcement from city officials on a firm route and potential COVID precautions. With the carnival season starting in about nine weeks, the Brotherhoods are poised to put on the best parades possible, despite supply chain delays and other issues such as police personnel. Yet Mardi Gras brotherhoods are resilient and ready to adapt if necessary. âWhere there is a will, there is a way,â said a Krewe captain.