100 to 200 outside police officers per day to staff Mardi Gras 2023 parades
The city and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office entered into a $950K cooperative endeavor agreement, which provides the method of paying outside officers
By Doug Maccash
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate
NEW ORLEANS — One hundred extra officers from across the state will help manage New Orleans parades on "regular days" this season, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and NOPD Interim Superintendent Michelle Woodfork announced Monday at a press conference at Gallier Hall.
On "big weekends," Woodfork said, 150 to 200 qualified law enforcement professionals will be present.
Woodfork said officers would be arriving from "all over the state, as far away as Shreveport."
Last week, the city and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office entered into a $950,000 cooperative endeavor agreement, which provides the method of paying outside officers.
Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson was instrumental in rounding up deputies from sheriff's offices across the state. Hutson could not attend Monday's press conference in person, because she has tested positive for COVID.
Hutson appeared at the event via video, but did not answer specific questions.
Asked if auxiliary officers from across the state would abide by their own department rules, Cantrell was quick to answer.
"First of all," she said, "the official law enforcement agency of the city of New Orleans is under the leadership of Superintendent Woodfork, (of) the New Orleans Police Department."
NOPD, she said, "would be galvanizing all law enforcement officers who plan to work in the city of New Orleans, to ensure that everyone is on the same page, relative to policies, procedures, as well as placement."
Woodfork added that the NOPD planned to have a meeting with the visiting officers "prior to anybody taking any positions on the route, explaining what our policies are."
Cantrell convened the news conference to celebrate the restoration of Carnival parades to their proper lengths — though that was no longer news.
The parades had been pruned in 2022, due to a shortage of police officers and other public service personnel. But on Jan. 25, to the relief of parade lovers, the mayor revealed that enough supplementary law enforcement professionals from across the state had been recruited to return New Orleans parades to their full routes.
Monday's event was mostly a ceremony to publicly congratulate the agencies, parade krewes and individuals who helped make the restored routes possible.
As last year ended, it seemed likely that New Orleans' parades would remain trimmed in 2023. But on Jan. 6, the traditional start of the Carnival season, the mayor announced a plan to allow parading organizations to solicit law enforcement agencies across the state to aid in crowd control in New Orleans.
The city offered to pay supplemental officers $50 per hour to assist during most parades and $75 per hour on Fat Tuesday.
The city also announced that it could compensate NOPD detail officers similarly. The plan will be paid for with taxpayer money in the city's fund balance, a sort of rainy day reserve.
The mayor announced that rooms for the visiting officers would also be provided by the city, perhaps with the cooperation of local hotels.
As the mayor spoke, she was flanked by traditional Zulu Tramp and Baby Doll costumers, symbolic of the long history of the Crescent city Carnival. Cantrell lauded the co-chairmen of the Mayor's Mardi Gras Advisory Council: James Reiss III, a representative of the Rex Organization, and Elroy James, of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
A brass band provided fanfare as the colorful entourage exited the meeting.
The Krewe du Vieux question
As parades were being returned to normalcy in most of the city, word spread of another apparent Carnival disruption. On Monday, the Krewe du Vieux, a popular, decades-old parade, announced its 2023 route from the lower Marigny to the Central Business District.
The map raised eyebrows because the parade's path did not include a jog along Frenchmen Street, the Marigny's nightclub and restaurant strip, where KDV had traveled in the past, drawing enormous crowds to those businesses.
But Krewe du Vieux spokesperson Keith Twitchell said that the change was "what the city offered and the krewe accepted."
Twitchell explained that the parade customarily concludes with a ball. "To be fair to the city," he said, since the location of the ball changes from time to time so does the parade route. This year, he said, the krewe selected the Sugar Mill event space, which stretched the parade several blocks above Canal Street.
To lengthen the route in one neighborhood meant cutting it in another, Twitchell explained.
Asked to discuss the city's negotiations with Krewe du Vieux, Cantrell said that "issues relevant to Krewe du Vieux have been worked out, we're working through them."
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