New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison has concerns about the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration, and the shortage of police officers on the NOLA police forces. As a result, he has cancelled all vacation and other requested time off to ensure there is proper police presence during the wild party. In addition to cancelling the time off on such a short notice, he has also reached out to other police departments requesting help to cover shifts. Harrison is concerned about the safety of his officers and the well being of the individuals that plan on attending Mardis Gras this year. However, many officers are upset that their plans have been cancelled on such a short notice.
According to the Times-Picayune, Superintendent Michale Harrison has come under fire for his decision to cancel all officer time off during Mardi Gras. The Fraternal Order of Police has stated that his change in policy, from allowing officers to take time off to join in the festivities, was enacted upon too close to the kickoff of Mardi Gras. Instead, he should have made the decision months earlier to allow proper cancellation of plans.
Despite the negative feedback he has received, Superintendent Harrison felt that cancelling the time off makes perfect sense to ensure the safety of the individuals that come to his town to have a good time.
“And so while we’re inviting outsiders and guests to come into our home and help us, it would be very unfair for us to have our officers out having a good time in a parade, while we’re inviting guests to help provide us that safety,”
ABC News reinforced the importance of a heavy police presence, sharing that the amount of violence that occurs during the alcohol-and-drug fueled party is almost more than a normally staffed police force can handle. Therefore, requiring every officer, plus out of town officers, to be in attendance makes sense. During Mardi Gras, multiple shootings, robberies, and even murders have occurred within the packed streets. At least 27 people were killed in eight of the last eleven years.
However, despite the heinous crimes that occur, many of the incidents are crimes of opportunity. With so many people packed into a small amount of space, the opportunity for crime may be enticing for those with nefarious intentions. Crystal Hinds, a French Quarter Resident, shared that she is posting signs to warn people to travel in groups, rather than alone, to ensure safety.
“We want them to know that, especially at night, it’s not safe to walk by yourself because you are a target,”
[Photo Courtesy: NOLA]