NEW ORLEANS — Saturday’s Krewe of Boo gave New Orleans hope the city can still stage big parades – post-pandemic.
But it also exposed a police shortage that has been getting progressively worse over time.
The parade had to cut out Canal Street from its route at the last minute.
Boo Captain Brian Kern says there were not enough officers to work along the parade route.
“The detail I was told required about 90 police officers,” Kern said. “They only had around 60 available.”
The number of NOPD officers has fallen below 1100. That’s far fewer than the goal of 1600 officers.
Fraternal Order of Police attorney Donovan Livacarri estimates 125 officers have left the force since the beginning of the year.
He says at the same time there have been less than 50 new hires.
“My guess is that’s probably better than 2 to 1 for the departures versus new hires,” Livacarri said.
Livacarri added the pandemic made it difficult to recruit new officers on top of chronic issues like poor morale and a need for more competitive wages.
He also says the shortage doesn’t bode well for the upcoming Carnival season.
“It’s not going to leave enough to staff Mardi Gras as we’ve known it in the past,” Livacarri said. “At less than 1100 officers, I think we need more. I think it was a crucial level at 1200.”
Kern says now’s the time for the city to address the problem.
“You have the state police, the national guard, you have port police, you have criminal sheriff,” Kern said. “I’m sure we can figure out a way to use all the other departments to make things happen in New Orleans.”
The NOPD points out Krewe of Boo is different than a Mardi Gras parade where officers are working on the clock with the city and not enough officers signed up to work Boo’s paid detail.
On Tuesday, Director of Communications Beau Tidwell said the reason for the shortened parade route was strictly due to not having enough NOPD officers volunteering for the detail and does not reflect the number of officers on the force.
“The men and women of the NOPD, and all of our front-line responders, have been under extraordinary strain throughout the pandemic and the overlapping disaster response required of them in the last eighteen months,” A written statement from the NOPD said. “Conditions have changed since we last held parades, and we need our community --- vendors, hospitality leaders, and event organizers --- to be mindful of that.”