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Fair parade to be adequately staffed following cancellation of Pride Parade

With the Monongalia County Fair set to begin next week, the annual Kick-Off Parade is scheduled for Monday, July 31 in downtown Morgantown. 

Back in June, a parade scheduled to kick-off Pride weekend in the city was cancelled due to staffing shortages at the Morgantown Police Department.  

This raises the question: Why are some events, like next week’s parade and the Friday night concerts at Ruby Amphitheatre downtown, able to have adequate police staffing and some are not? 

“The city cannot mandate that officers be required to work parades and special events beyond their regular work schedules,” said Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell. “So those events are strictly voluntary.”   

The chief acknowledged there have been occasions, such as the Pride Parade, when the department has approved parades and counted on officers to volunteer to work those events — but ended up unable to find enough officers to volunteer and had to cancel that parade as a result.

In the past, Powell said the department has had a special unit dedicated to providing staffing for parades and other events. However, because the department has been consistently understaffed for the past few years, that special services unit has been greatly reduced due to lack of personnel. 

Powell said events like the Friday night concerts are easier to staff because fewer officers are needed to ensure public safety. 

“Parades require the shutting down and redirecting of traffic — normally this requires the presence of at least six-to-eight officers to be able to ensure safety of the parade participants and spectators,” he said. The concerts, on the other hand, can be staffed with half that number. 

In June, Morgantown City Manager Kim Haws said the number of officers required to ensure public safety during public events was “an eye-opener” and created an “interesting dilemma” because these events require city staff to volunteer their services.

MPD and the city are working on finding alternative options or solutions to resolve some of the issues, according to both Powell and Haws, but neither elaborated on what those alternatives might be. 

Haws said MPD officials have assured enough officers have signed up to cover Monday night’s parade and it should be able to move forward with sufficient security coverage. 

The parade, which will march down High Street, is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. with the lineup of participants beginning at 6:30 p.m. 

There are plans to reschedule the Pride parade, but an official date has not been set.

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