Editorials, Opinion

Contracting with traffic service a good idea for future parades

The kick-off parade for the Mon County Fair Monday was a success. Unfortunately, that was not the case for June’s Pride parade, which had to be canceled due to too few police volunteers to staff the event. Which is why the City of Morgantown announced last week it would look into contracting with a third-party traffic control service for future parades.

We’re going to set aside the dueling claims over why the Pride parade had to be canceled and over how much a traffic control service would actually cost. Looking at the plain reality of life in Morgantown, we think hiring a third party for traffic control during parades is a good idea.

Before the Pride parade cancellation, very few, if any, of us understood just how many bodies it takes to staff a parade downtown: blocking off streets, directing traffic, crowd control and foot patrols. The Special Services Unit, which is in charge of handling public events, only has two officers, according to the Morgantown Police Department’s website. That means staffing for parades depends on other officers volunteering.

The sad truth is that the Morgantown Police Department is understaffed, and we already ask a lot of our officers. For the most part, our local police have been wonderful about stepping up so that public events can go on, but the canceled Pride parade proves that sometimes there just aren’t enough volunteers to allow the event to proceed safely.

Contracting with a third-party service might be a little more expensive, but it guarantees there will people present for traffic control, which is a significant part of hosting a parade. This frees up police to focus on public safety, such as crowd control, and takes some of the pressure off the department to come up with ample volunteers.

We can understand if officers are disappointed at the possibility of limited opportunities for overtime. However, working with a traffic control service is ultimately better for the community, because we won’t have to worry that an event — especially one that requires extra manpower, like a parade — will be canceled due to a lack of available police. The Morgantown community deserves the comfort of that certainty moving forward.