Sailfest returns to New London; police worry about staffing

Sailfest returns in New London
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 6:14 PM EDT
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NEW LONDON, Conn. (WFSB) - Sailfest in New London is officially on. It had been cancelled the past two years due to COVID.

The decision to bring Sailfest back is not without controversy. The New London Police Union is pushing back, saying they are too understaffed to run this event safely.

“We survived the pandemic, especially for our business community, they need this event and I think the whole region wants this event to come back,” said New London Mayor Michael Passero.

“That’s gonna mean just a lot more revenue frankly and just a lot more support,” said Flavours of Life Store Manager Lakisha Lee.

Lee can’t hold back her excitement. Her shop is near the waterfront, and she says Sailfest’s return is welcome relief.

“We are so thrilled to have Sailfest back into the region. A lot of people from out of the region that are gonna be back to historic beautiful downtown New London we can’t wait,” said Lee.

With all the enthusiasm for the return of Sailfest, there are concerns. The New London Police Union president says they are too understaffed to handle so many people descending on the city.

“We were at 96 cops. We are down to about 59 and we still have a few expected retirements before July 1. So obviously staffing and handling an event of this size, of 200 plus thousand people comes at kind of a cost of manpower that we don’t have,” said New London Police Union President Joshua Bergeson.

He says police are already working 16 hour shifts with little turnaround time. Relying on nearby agencies doesn’t work because they face the same problems.

The mayor says Sailfest will have the protection it needs. “There’s 30 or 40 officials from more than 20 agencies that participate in the planning for this. For this event. That includes, TSA, homeland security, the FBI, so we are working with all of our area public safety agencies to ensure that public safety is provided.”

The mayor says he will continue between now and July to work with the police department, the union and other agencies to ensure Sailfest goes on safely and effectively.