Safety will be the new priority as Assistant Commissioner Catherine Burn takes command of police operations during Mardi Gras.

Police will work with Oxford St venue licensees to replace glass schooners and bottles with plastic cups.

And for the first time a team of officers will be based in Hyde Park on parade night, in addition to wandering teams along the parade route. A lack of officers on the street will not be a problem, Burn said.

“We’ve put a lot of planning into Mardi Gras, that’s happening right now. We had operations last Friday and Saturday night up in Surry Hills, and we’ll continue that,” Burn said.

A drug operation has been flagged for Mardi Gras night itself. Burn said a drug dog at Good Vibrations made a significant number of detections.

“Even though we try to get the messages out, they’re getting detected with supply quantities,” Burn said.

“But our warnings are for everybody, there are dangers associated with it. You don’t know what you’re getting, you’re really gambling with your life.”

Two additional commanders will assist Burn on the ground during the Mardi Gras operation – Supt Stuart Wilkins from Macquarie Fields and Supt Philip Rogerson from Eastern Beaches. Both have significant experience in crowd control and event management.

The strategy of sharing command of major events with several superintendents was unveiled by Burn and Deputy Commissioner Dave Owens during a meeting with Sydney MP Clover Moore last Thursday.

“In the initial stages it will be six commanders that are rotated through, both from Central Metropolitan and commanders from outside with experience,” Burn said.

Newer commanders will understudy at the events to build experience, and ultimately allow individual commands like Surry Hills to better specialise in local crime.

Moore had requested a Victorian-style Street Safe Task Force with a dedicated commander that could focus exclusively on violence and anti-social behaviour in late-night entertainment areas.

But with limited police resources, Burn and Owens have come up with mobile teams that will perform much of the same role, but over a larger inner-city area and also attending large gatherings with potential for crowd violence.

“Up to 10,000 people visit the area each Friday and Saturday night and 20,000 people live within walking distance of Oxford St: responsive and effective policing is vital,” Moore said.

ACON president Mark Orr said police have a good reputation for managing Oxford St Mardi Gras crowds.

“But if something should go wrong on the night and people want to make a complaint about homophobic violence, then with these plans in place they’ll be more confident it will be addressed than it may have been prior to these changes,” he said.

NSW Police has participated in the Mardi Gras parade since 1996 and this year’s contingent of Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers will be led by the Police Band.

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