MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Between the COVID-19 pandemic, cancelation of parades and sub-freezing temperatures, most people skipped the downtown scene Tuesday.
Police, however, did not have the option to take Fat Tuesday off.
“Unfortunately, we work in a profession that’s 24-7 – heat, cold, rain, tornadoes,” Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said. “You know, whatever it is, we’re out here working. And so, this is no different than any other type of event that we would normally have to work under adverse conditions.”
No different, perhaps, but certainly colder.
The mercury was well below the 20-degree line at 5 a.m. when Officer Jabin Goldstein started his Fat Tuesday shift.
“Actually, I think this is the coldest day that I’ve had so far,” he said. It’s been unusually cold. Usually, it gets – I’ve had it go into the 20s but never in the teens yet.”
Goldstein’s secret to keeping warm?
“Just turn up the heat. Make sure that you have a beanie on to keep your head warm, and have a jacket,” the three-year veteran of the force told FOX10 News. “Gloves are nice, if you got ’em, remembered to bring ’em. I didn’t remember to bring them, so I didn’t remember to bring mine,’ of course.”
Officer Katrina Frazier said it is important dress for the cold.
“The tricks are layering up. It always helps to put on layers,” she said. “And you know, we’re used to this. Mardi Gras season, we’re accustomed to working in the cold, all types of inclement weather. So we know to layer up and prepare for any type of event.”
It was a far cry from a typical Mardi Gras. At 11 a.m. Tuesday, when massive crowds would be watching the Order of Athena parade and waring for the Knights of Revelry and Comic Cowboys, Dauphin Street was so quiet, you could hear a leaf drop. Downtown streets closed to traffic were empty, except for the occasional pedestrian.
Battiste said that allowed his officers extra flexibility to remain warm inside of vehicles.
Even without parades due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mobile police weren’t taking any chances. Battiste said his department was staffed like it is for a normal Mardi Gras – more than 200 officers in the downtown area – to be ready as more people started trickling onto Dauphin Street later in the day.
“There’s things going on on the north side,” he said. “There’s things going on on the south side. And so our goal is to make sure that we can respond anywhere in this general vicinity with enough personnel to deal with any problem that we might have – while conducting our normal operations, for the day, as well.”
Battiste said the department took other steps to avoid exposing officers to too much cold.
“That’s one of the reasons why we staff so heavily; we can rotate people in, you know?” he said. “We use a system by which if we’ve got somebody who's been standing on the corner for an hour, we make sure that he’s partnered up with somebody so that they can swap in and out.”
The cold and pandemic certainly made Fat Tuesday unusual. But Battiste said it was not the strangest Mardi Gras of his career. That would be in the 1990s when he was with the Mobile County Sheriff’s and wearing plain clothes while trying to break up a fight. Mobile police officers, he said, confused him for a combatant.
“I ended up getting popped upside the head a couple of times by the PD because they didn’t know that I was an undercover officer at the time,” he said. “You just had a lot of things going on that year with Mardi Gras, and so it was just a different time.”