Mardi Gras Parades Will Roll in Shreveport; Fears Persist of Not Enough Police
City and Krewes sign on the dotted line for parades to roll during Mardi Gras,. But the police union president warns of potential dangers if staffing doesn't reach 300 officers
The Shreveport Mardi Gras parades will roll as planned in a little more than three months from now. It was all smiles during a news conference at Government Plaza on Tuesday [October 24], as Shreveport Mayor Tom Arceneaux announced agreements with both the Krewes of Centaur and Gemini. It ends weeks of building acrimony from krewe members toward city hall.
Krewe leaders had complained they had been excluded from many of the proposed changes designed to improve parade safety, which includes an earlier start time and shorter routes. After recent talks, the parade routes returned to their original, longer paths. The city and the krewes also split the difference on when to start the parades, with the compromise leading to a parade starts at 2:45 p.m. On February 3 and 10.
But you may remember our recent story with the Shreveport Police Officer’s Association union President Dr. Michael Carter. He cautioned that police staffing of such a huge and long parade must have a minimum of 300 officers. So, during the Tuesday news conference, Shreveport Police Chief Wayne Smith answered my question about police staffing levels:
Chief Wayne Smith: “We should exceed 200, which is still a little bit lower than our number were in many years but they’re at a point where we feel that we can have a successful and safe day.”
Jeff Ferrell: “I was just going to say though, the police union president says anything lower than 300 and…it could be very dangerous with so many people drinking, especially if not all those officers have arresting power. So, if it’s low 200s, I think people are going to be, you know, a little concerned.”Chief Wayne Smith: “Well, everyone that will be there will have arrest authority. And we feel confident that what we have we’ll be able to work with and ensure a very safe parade.”
In a statement to Red River Radio, Dr. Carter wrote:
"For years SPD has declined in staffing. Year after year, political administrations continue to expect the same level of service with 150 officer staffing shortages. The expectation is unreasonable and unsafe. It is unsafe for the citizens and for the officers. The route for the large Mardi Gras parades was designed when it was barely possible to muster 300 SPD officers for these routes. The leaders of Shreveport need to accept the reality of the situation. They have a police staffing problem. If they want to continue events of large scale, then the consequences of critically low staffing will reflect on them. SPOA will hold all involved accountable. Risking the safety of citizens and officers is unacceptable."Dr. Michael E. Carter President Shreveport Police Officers Association
Mardi Gras’ Economic Boon
Now, with signed agreements between the city of Shreveport and the Krewes, attention is expected to return to the Mardi gras celebrations and what it means for local businesses, governments, and people. The local tourism bureau – now known as Visit Shreveport-Bossier gives the latest estimate for attendance of the 5 Mardi Gras parades at 225-thousand people.
President and CEO Stacy Brown says 41% of them are out-of-town visitors. She says all those visitors provide a tremendous economic impact to our community: “So, the direct visitor spending was a little over 10 million. With the indirect spending and the media exposure , it’s nearly 20 million dollars to our community during one Mardi Gras season.”