3 considerations for safer parades

Parades are joyful for citizens but fretful for police departments large and small

Every parade requires police departments to form a plan that addresses these questions:

  1. Where do the parade organizers go to stage the parade?
  2. Where do cars park?
  3. How does the crowd move to the parade?
  4. Where do people gather to view on the parade route?
  5. Where do we re-route detoured traffic?
  6. How do police, fire and rescue personnel respond to emergencies within the route?
  7. Where does the parade disperse, disband and exit the area?
  8. As an agency, how do we coordinate all of this and ensure a peaceful and safe event throughout?

Clearly, such events require a positive partnership between the police and parade organizers, except this partnership can consist of parade organizers telling the police what they want to do, and where they want to do it. Police departments respond by shutting down the chosen route and facilitating the parade organizers’ requests. However, there are things that can be done by jurisdictions to ensure safer parades.

1. Set a pre-determined parade route for events

Choose a pre-determined parade route in your village, town, or county to accommodate all large events, which is broken down into sections to accommodate smaller events.

The route’s location and configuration should allow for not only the event but also parking, ingress and egress from the area, secure closure of the area, as well as a readily available detour for traffic.

Having a pre-determined route allows for police and parade planners to only plan once. Once a plan for shut down and security is established, the route can be reused with slight modifications for improvements after each event.

2. Establish perimeters, barricades

Security can be factored in for each event by:

  • Establishing an outer perimeter: The outer perimeter would utilize traffic bucks, cones, barrels and traffic officers to detour traffic around the parade route. This also allows for a problem vehicle to be identified by officers in the event the driver tries to bypass the detour.
  • Establishing an inner perimeter: The inner perimeter is established primarily to keep an impaired or homicidal driver from causing death or great bodily harm on the massed group of parade-goers. Security precautions for the inner perimeter can be more easily budgeted for when the identified parade route becomes traditionally established.

Portable cement barricades can be purchased, stored and re-used often, for the parade and other uses as well. They can be positioned to block or configured to slow down vehicles trying to enter the parade route.

Other ways to secure an inner perimeter from vehicular entry are the positioning of dump trucks, tractor-trailers and flatbeds. They can block a street partially, or completely while being easy to remove after the event. A permanent route can also be earmarked for funding for permanently mounted security cameras up and down the route as well.

[RELATED: Using municipal vehicles to increase security at public events]

3. Position personnel

Police officers, reserve officers and trained volunteers with radios can give your security efforts added eyes. Consider taking the high ground during these events by positioning members of your sniper/observer teams to provide a protective over-watch. It is amazing how much area can be covered and watched by officers with optics and communications positioned above the event, out of the organized chaos of a parade.

Plainclothes officers with communications and cameras among the crowd can enhance, not only the event’s security but also provide evidence later if someone in the crowd commits a criminal act. They can position themselves close to groups that present the potential for a problem before the event is over. Motor patrol, bicycle patrol and mounted patrol are excellent security enhancements for parades.

A mobile response trouble team is also recommended to have on stand-by for an immediate response to locations on the route, where trouble erupts.


Parades are important for a village, town, or city to celebrate its sense of community. It is an opportunity for positive close contact between the citizens of the community and their law enforcement officers. It also is an opportunity in today's world for bad people to do bad things to the public you serve. Make sure you keep an eye on the horizon to prevent the one while enjoying the other.  

NEXT: Event security: 7 best practices to prevent or stop violence

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