Cantrell: ‘We are not canceling Mardi Gras;’ manpower shortage brought into question

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, rides on a horse in the Krewe of Zulu parade during Mardi...
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, rides on a horse in the Krewe of Zulu parade during Mardi Gras on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)(Gerald Herbert | AP)
Published: Aug. 19, 2022 at 1:22 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2022 at 4:48 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Police Chief Shaun Ferguson says it is too soon to say whether Mardi Gras 2023 will be canceled after remarks made by Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Councilmembers say their phones have been ringing off the hook and Mardi Gras guide publisher Arthur Hardy says the mayor’s comments on canceling Mardi Gras due to the ongoing police manpower shortage could have a chilling effect on krewe membership and tourism.

“People are spending money. So, when people are spending money, they’re looking for their full bang for the buck and end of the day,” Krewe of Pygmalion Captain Jack Rizzuto said.

Mayor Cantrell issued the following statement:

“We ARE NOT canceling Mardi Gras.

New Orleans, like the rest of the nation, is experiencing a shortage of public safety personnel that includes police, fire, EMS – across the board – you name it. The United States Army even says recruitment for our Armed Services has reached historic lows. I hear from my brother and sister Mayors all the time about how these global economic challenges – the big three: inflation, supply chain, and labor shortage – have created unforeseen difficulties that hamper our ability to attract candidates to these noble professions. New York, Chicago, and even our own Louisiana State Police all are facing unprecedented personnel shortages. However, we have taken aggressive steps to increase recruitment and retention initiatives, have enhanced technology, and built more efficient facilities as we have discussed over the last few weeks.

We have invested nearly $1 million into promotional marketing and introduced enhanced equipment and facilities, including the $3.7 million firing range that my administration unveiled yesterday, which is the first of its kind in our city and signifies our commitment to 21st century policing. In addition, starting early next year, we will begin paying cash bonuses of $5,000 to police officers according to their years on the force. We understand the challenges are real, but the City of New Orleans remains committed to delivering critical resources needed for our public safety agencies, while also continuing to safely host large-scale events that allow us to celebrate our beloved culture.”

The newest tally shows NOPD manpower is down to about 950 officers as of Friday (Aug. 19). Ferguson says manpower continues to be a problem but it is too soon to call off Carnival.

“I can’t say it’s realistic, but it’s something we need to consider,” Ferguson says. “Right now we are doing what we need to do in terms of assessing our need for Mardi Gras 2023.”

“Now is not the time to panic,” he continued. “It’s time to identify those needs and see what we can do to provide those needs.”

Carnival krewes wait with bated breath over whether they will be allowed to return to traditional routes or be forced to parade and revel along shortened, modified routes the city imposed last year due to lack of police.

More: Mardi Gras Krewes have to wait to find out if routes shortened again

“I don’t know what we’ll do this time if [lack of personnel issues] continues,” Michael Glasser, head of the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO) says.

Glasser says NOPD will likely have 200 fewer officers this Mardi Gras than at the same time last year if current trends continue.

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