On Wednesday, 2-19-20, during the Nyx parade, there was an unfortunate accident leading to the death of a parade-goer who attempted to cross the parade route between two halves of a tandem float.
On Saturday, 2-22-20, during the Endymion parade, there was another fatal accident involving a parade-goer attempting to cross the parade route between two halves of a tandem float.
It was inevitably brought up that the 2-19-20 incident was the first parade related fatality since 2008 when an Endymion rider was killed in the Endymion disband area by the Superdome.
I was present for the 2008 incident in the Endymion disband area. In fact, at the time, I was Commander of the NOPD Traffic Fatality Investigations Unit. So, my unit conducted the investigation, just as the NOPD Fatality Investigations Unit was responsible for investigating the two incidents this year.
The 2008 incident happened when an inebriated rider got off the float when the floats were being moved. Those two things simply should not have been happening at the same time. The 2020 cases are not that simple.
Following the implementation of the federal consent decree involving the NOPD, quite a few police officers left the service. The FOP has been pointing out since 2011 that manpower had reached a critical level every chance we got.
When the Landrieu administration transitioned to the Cantrell administration, I was asked about my hopes for the NOPD. They were, and still are, that the manpower problems are not forgotten about and that the Great Place to Work “reforms” of Civil Service Rules would be repealed.
As for manpower, we have made little progress in that area.
Manpower shortages on the parade route are most visible in that parade contingencies are often found working behind the crowds instead of in front of the crowds. This may allow for officers to respond to and contain critical incidents more quickly. However, officers in front of the crowd are more likely to deter people from trying to cross between the two halves of tandem floats. Sometimes, a whistle blow or a quick, forbidding look from a uniformed police officer is enough to keep folks from making bad decisions.
Putting a tractor on every float could be helpful, if we have enough tractors to pull that off. There may be other safety efforts which could help as well. I am confident one of those things is to continue to work on police manpower so that the NOPD’s resources can be deployed more effectively so we can avoid these tragic accidents. I wonder when the last parade fatality involving a parade-goer (as opposed to a float rider who had been drinking the entire day) occurred during New Orleans Mardi Gras? I don’t think 2008 counts.
Please have a safe Mardi Gras. Be careful. Listen to the law enforcement officers around (behind?) you. They know how to keep you safe. We have been doing it a long time with a pretty good track record.