The BPD Special Events Unit typically plans around 450 special events per year, ranging in size and complexity from visiting dignitaries to political demonstrations to Little League parades to the Boston Marathon. Basically, they are charged with operational planning for anything that is “out of the ordinary” for our districts. Currently, the two-person Special Events Unit is focused on the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston this Sunday.
Planning for the Parade is a yearlong process, beginning with debriefing after-action reports and community input from the previous year’s parade. Problem areas and issues are identified, and recommendations are made. These are vetted with the community, other city and state agencies, and the sponsoring parade committee. Things like types of vehicles allowed in the parade, where to set up rope lines and barriers, and where to stage the various police assets are all determined in the planning process. The general overview of the steps involved in the planning process follows:
- Parade Committee requests permit from the City, including details of who/what are included in the parade, and types of vehicles.
- City reviews the permit and sets rules and regulations.
- Special Events Unit works with the parade committee, community residents, District C6 Community Service officers, Boston Transportation Department, Boston EMS, Boston Fire, Boston Parks and Recreation, Boston Public Works, State Police, Transit Police, and other BPD officials to create the operational plan.
- In January, additional community outreach begins. Community Service Officers meet with community groups and distribute pamphlets regarding police expectations regarding behavior.
- Immediately prior to the parade, a press release is distributed to increase awareness among the community and media related to parade behavior expectations, citing alcohol laws, etc.
- BPD, City Licensing Board and State Liquor Board meet with local liquor store owners and bar/restaurant owners, stressing public safety and setting scaled back hours of operation.
- Transportation Department posts the parade route several days in advance.
- Barriers are set up, as well as rope lines.
- The morning of the parade, towing along the parade route starts at 8AM, with areas around churches towed last to respect morning services.
- Police assets are moved into the area and broken down into eight zones.
- Dedicated police resources are placed along the parade route, in outside traffic areas, and in quick response squads. Mobile Operations (motorcycle units) and POPs (public order platoons) are also deployed.
- Unified Command Center (UCC) is established at BPD Headquarters, with various city and state agency representatives participating. The Special Events Unit is also on hand at the UCC, giving input as the event is unfolding.
- Parade ends, participants and spectators are dispersed.
- After action reports and debriefings — planning begins for 2011.
As you can see, a lot of planning goes into this annual parade. Other more impromptu parades (think Superbowl or World Series) take a similar amount of planning without the benefit of previous years’ experience, community input or a yearlong process. So the next time you are at a parade in Boston, think about all the planning and preparation that goes into it, and then enjoy!