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Super Bowl security: A behind-the-scenes look at planning and partnerships

Few northern cities play host to the Super Bowl, so dealing with the likely extreme February cold is a necessity for police officers and first responders


Philadelphia Eagles players line up over the ball during a practice for the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in Minneapolis. Philadelphia is scheduled to face the New England Patriots Sunday.

AP Photo/Eric Gay

Reprinted from the FBI.

Nearly two years of planning has taken place, largely behind the scenes, to make sure that Super Bowl LII – and the 10 days of events leading up to the kickoff at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4 – is safe and secure. Nothing has been left to chance, not even the weather.

“An event like this is about planning, about preparation and about partnerships,” said Rick Thornton, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division. “Each organization brings its unique abilities to the table, but it requires tremendous teamwork and cooperation to pull everything together into a unified whole.”

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) is the lead agency for security at this year’s Super Bowl, and they are being supported by an impressive team that includes dozens of local police departments and public safety organizations, along with federal agencies including the FBI and multiple components of the Department of Homeland Security.

“I think we have done our best to think of just about every contingency, natural or manmade,” said MPD’s Scott Gerlicher, overall public safety coordinator for Super Bowl LII. “The Super Bowl is just a massive operation, and very complicated,” he explained, “especially in our area.”

Few northern cities play host to the Super Bowl, and dealing with the likely extreme February cold is a necessity for police officers and first responders who will have to brave the elements out of doors (warming huts will be located near the venues). Fans attending the game will be pre-screened at indoor locations, such as the Mall of America, so they won’t have to wait outside the stadium. Securing the stadium itself is challenging because, unlike in many cities, U.S. Bank Stadium is located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, making the establishment of a secure perimeter difficult.

The FBI’s main responsibilities include taking the lead in any kind of terrorist, cyber or major crime incident, and providing intelligence – from both a national and international perspective – about bad actors who might seek to disrupt Super Bowl activities.

“We have planned for this to ensure that nothing happens,” Rivers said. “But if something does happen, some kind of mass casualty incident or terrorism event, then there is a huge shift built into the program to continue to support the event but to transition to crisis response and investigation.”

The FBI has also offered other expertise and resources, including taking responsibility for credentialing thousands of public safety officers and volunteers who will need varying levels of access to Super Bowl venues.

“We are facilitating the name checks and records checks for all the folks who are going to get credentialed,” Rivers said. “That means volunteers, food vendors, private security people—the number of individuals could exceed 30,000. That’s a huge commitment from our office.”

For the FBI as a whole, however, preparing for major events is nothing new. The Bureau’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) maintains teams of agents and experts who specialize in helping to secure major events such as political conventions and the Olympics.

CIRG personnel operate out of the spotlight but stand ready to respond to emergency situations. On hand for the Super Bowl, said Special Agent Mike Hartnett, who heads a crisis management team at CIRG, “will be tactical teams, bomb techs, people that can respond to a hazardous device incident—we’ll bring the whole wealth of response that the FBI can bring.”

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