No police security causes cancellation of Juneteenth festival

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Among the popular festivals this weekend, one has been cancelled because no police officers signed up to work special duty security shifts.

Juneteenth was scheduled for this weekend at Genoa Park, but Columbus Public Safety confirmed Thursday the event was cancelled. The website for the event says Juneteenth 2016 is being rescheduled for June 2017.

NBC4 obtained correspondence between the public safety director and the event organizer, Mustafaa Shabazz, in which the director noted that officers who worked Juneteenth last year were never compensated.

“Would you go to your job if they stopped paying you?” said Keith Ferrell, the executive vice president of Lodge 9 of the Fraternal Order of Police. “At some point, I don’t know why anybody would sign up for that job. I wouldn’t.”

In a letter dated June 6, the director said no officers had signed up for the voluntary special duty shifts and that he had to advise Shabazz his event should not go forward.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen,” Ferrell said. “We always step up, as long as the employer holds their end of the bargain up. We always step up to make sure these events are safe for everybody and provide a great environment for everybody.”

This weekend, Columbus police are stepping up security for other big events after the shooting attacks at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“We’ve been doing this for over 25 years now,” Columbus Police Sergeant Rich Weiner said. “We’ve become very proficient with Red, White and Boom, OSU football games, any other large events that have been city-sponsored.”

Weiner said an increase in officers at events such as Pride would not mean a shortage of officers elsewhere in the city. He said the department would be bringing in additional officers on overtime.

“A lot of people ask how many officers are going to be at these different events,” Weiner said. We don’t give those numbers out because those are tactical information. […] If anyone is planning something, we don’t want them to know how many resources we have and where they’re going to be.”

Weiner emphasized that there are no credible threats.

Mustafaa Shabazz, the event organizer for Juneteenth, did not return a phone call or email Thursday.

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