New London

New London's Sailfest to Return, Police Union Raises Safety Concerns

The event is making a comeback after being canceled for two years during the pandemic.

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Sailfest is returning to New London in 2022. After a two-year hiatus during the pandemic, the three-day festival is making a comeback from July 8 to 10.

"This will be a morale boost," said New London Mayor Michael Passero, adding that the event draws hundreds of thousands of people to the city and its local businesses.

Rich Martin owns a record store downtown, The Telegraph, and said he is excited to see the festival return.

"It drives people to the city and they discover our shops and they have a great time in the town and then they come back on the successive weekends," Martin said. "It brings traffic in throughout the rest of the year."

Jose Martinez, chef and owner at Thames Landing Oyster House, said he is also eager to see the crowds at his business.

"We haven't had it in the last two years so that's a good boost for the business lost within those last two years," Martinez said.

While many are eager for Sailfest to return, the excitement is not universal. The New London Police Union wrote a letter to city leaders raising safety concerns. They called on the city to cancel the event.

"Our main concern is being able to safely staff this event for the amount of people we attract yearly for this," said Josh Bergeson, president of the NLPD union.

The police department has been working to recruit officers. According to Bergeson, they are staffed at 59 officers right now.

"We are at a record low in our department since I have been there over 15 years," Bergeson said.

Bergeson said the department has to run and organize three separate operations during the event along with normal patrol operations. In order for the union to feel safe, he said they would need a lot of mutual aid for the event.

"Unfortunately, we are not the only department hurting for manpower. Other departments in our area are not having any more luck recruiting than we are," Bergeson said.

Chief Brian Wright said over the phone that the event is a large undertaking. He said that the department will rely on past experiences working it to navigate a safe event this year.

Mayor Michael Passero said that Sailfest will go on, but also said that he understands and appreciates the union's concerns.

"I believe we have put on this event with staffing levels around this number if not lower in the past and we have been able to do it, but we take the police union's concerns seriously and we are working with them," Passero said.

According to the mayor, the city works with more than a dozen public safety agencies to host Sailfest.

"We have already been working with this large group of partners that help us stage Sailfest and Sailfest will be as safe as it has always been," Passero said.

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