Super Bowl getting a big effort from cops, feds to keep it safe

The overwhelming show of force reflects the importance of this single game to the country, officials said


By Josh Cain
Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES — The Super Bowl requires a super-sized amount of stuff.

Most of those things are coming in on trucks and in giant cargo containers — as many as 200 to 350 shipping containers, the kind you might see at local ports, per day, said Carlos Martel, the director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Los Angeles.

Carlos Martel, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, speaks to the press about Super Bowl security in Carson, California, on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022.
Carlos Martel, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, speaks to the press about Super Bowl security in Carson, California, on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. (Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram)

“Every day from last Sunday to the day of the game,” Martel said.

Trucks, each the size of a regular semi, offer a giant X-ray scanner that extends out so three officers can simply drive alongside the cargo and scan for guns and explosives, and even harmful radiation. The scan takes less than two minutes — light-speed compared to agents having to open each container and carefully inspect what’s inside.

“We’re the defensive line at SoFi,” said Jaime Ruiz, another Customs official.

In all, hundreds if not thousands of cops of all stripes are on guard throughout Southern California leading up to Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, Feb. 13, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, where the Los Angeles Rams will take on the Cincinnati Bengals — the only place officials want to see any physical attacks.

Much of the security effort will be hidden from view, kept secret from the public to ensure effectiveness. But parts of the effort will be out in the open.

As early as this weekend, roadblocks could start getting set up in downtown Los Angeles and around SoFi.

“We’ll have added barriers and vehicle checks, and screening of personnel, in addition to a highly visible presence (of officers),” said Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore about what residents can expect to see around L.A. Live and other parts of the city where there are official National Football League events.

The greater police presence is just the most visible result of years-long planning to keep safe the Super Bowl’s return to greater Los Angeles, law enforcement officials said.

“This is one of the most intricate security planning operations that has occurred in the South Bay, ever,” said Inglewood Mayor James Butts, who was once Santa Monica’s police chief after becoming deputy chief in Inglewood.

Inglewood’s force has been described as the lead agency coordinating the security response for the Super Bowl. But the mid-size department, with about 185 sworn officers, will get help from all levels of law enforcement.

Even members of the Biden administration will be briefed on security for the game: Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, will be in Los Angeles County in the next week to review security plans and operations.

All manner of equipment is being deployed to the region to foil any would-be plots against the Super Bowl. On Tuesday, some Southern California residents might have seen a strange helicopter flying over the area in a checkerboard pattern.

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That was the National Nuclear Security Administration‘s twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter measuring “normal background radiation levels” in the area, preparing for the big day. In a statement, the agency said such flights are “a normal part of security and emergency-preparedness activities” — and added it just wanted to let the public know about the flights to ensure citizens “are not alarmed.”

The overwhelming show of force reflects the importance of this single game to the country, officials said. And so the game gets a national-sized response from police in neighboring Hawthorne to department heads in Washington, D.C.

Since last week, no official when asked, at the local to the federal level, has said that he or she has specific knowledge of any threat against the Super Bowl.

Some local agencies — their ranks depleted by COVID-19-related absences — still plan for surges in officers to make sure they can deploy anywhere they’re needed this week.

Besides extra patrols around an NFL village being created at L.A. Live, some of those assignments will include guard duty for other locations. Chief Moore said LAPD officers will be at the hotels for the Rams and the Bengals. They’ll be posted outside where the referees are staying, too.

Inglewood PD will also be out in force ahead of the game.

“There’s going to be a perimeter established, with streets blocked off farther away from SoFi than usual,” said Butts, the Inglewood mayor. “You’ll see many more police (officers on the streets) than usual. And there will be a police presence within the facility much larger than you would see for a regular NFL game.”

During last weekend’s NFC championship game between the Rams and the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi, spectator David Perry didn’t notice a heavy police presence.

The 56-year-old who lives in West Covina said there were some extra law enforcement officers helping direct traffic into the parking lots, and some sheriff’s deputies were mounted up on horseback. There were the usual metal detectors and vaccination-card checks.

“You saw (law enforcement officers) every once in a while, but they mostly left it up to the security team, so it wasn’t that much of a show of force,” he said.

But then again, that wasn’t the Super Bowl.

Staff writer Nathaniel Percy contributed to this story.

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