NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — Sailfest will return to New London this July after a two-year hiatus amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three-day festival will run from July 8 to 10, bringing fireworks, food, vendors, and hundreds of thousands of people to City Pier.
“Obviously, the sheer number of people is concerning,” Josh Bergeson, the president of the New London Police Union said.
At 59 officers strong, the New London Police Department does not have enough people to keep the public and themselves safe, Bergeson said. They sent a letter to city leaders in March asking administrators to “cancel this event.”
“We have a well-documented history of in the past of shootings, stabbings, other events that have happened on Sailfest, and you know, officers getting hurt, cops getting bottles broken over their head,” Bergeson said.
New London brings in outside resources to supplement the security, but Bergeson said that is not enough for all the people who will be in the city that weekend.
“We definitely hear their concerns and we’re working with them to reassure them that we will be able to supplement the resources,” Mayor Michael Passero (D).
Passero said other than the two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city and its law enforcement partners have put on Sailfest for more than 50 years, and they are confident they can keep people safe.
“This is handled like it’s a homeland security type of event,” the mayor said.
The union would like to see Sailfest scaled back to more like the Eat in the Street events which happen every week in the summer with no rides and no vendors along the waterfront.
Bank Street in downtown New London is closed for Eat in the Streets, bringing in thousands for the food, fun, and entertainment.
“I think those events are more suited for the staffing levels we currently have and events we’re able to handle safely,” Bergeson said.
“We budget for the positions,” Passero said. “We can’t control the employment situation.”
The city has an 80-person minimum staffing mandate for its police department, but it hasn’t reached that number in years.