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Back to Archives | Back to September 2007 Contents 

A Local Perspective on Major Event Police Planning in a Post–September 11 Environment: Super Bowl XLI, Miami, Florida

By Robert Parker, Director, and Russell Fischer, Chief, Uniform Services Division, Miami-Dade Police Department

he Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) is no stranger to having planned for and responded to major events. Miami has experienced hurricanes, aircraft disasters, and organized demonstrations; prepared for Super Bowls; and hosted the annual IACP and Major Cities Chiefs conferences.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, significantly modified the planning process for communities hosting a Super Bowl, with the major shift occurring with Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans, Louisiana (which was held February 3, 2002). Although providing a safe environment for the Super Bowl and related activities in any era has not been without challenge, modifications since 2001 can be described only as a testament to the ability of planners to coordinate the activities of multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The difference in cost and complexity in all instances are in stark contrast with the previous Super Bowl hosted by Miami, Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999. Resources required to provide a secure environment and to position agencies to respond to emergencies have increased dramatically.

Planning for the Super Bowl commences years in advance with site visits, consultations, and observations at prior Super Bowl venues. In fact, the MDPD will have been actively involved in some aspect of planning of Super Bowls for six consecutive years (2005–2010) in host cities Jacksonville, Florida; Detroit, Michigan; Miami; Glendale, Arizona; Tampa, Florida; and Miami. The actual meeting and planning sessions begin in earnest immediately following the conclusion of the previous Super Bowl. In every sense, the Super Bowl is a premier national and international event that involves 365 days of discussion and planning.

Planning for Super Bowl XLI

For Super Bowl XLI, a visit by New York–based National Football League (NFL) security representatives to the lead law enforcement agency began with an overview of their expectations and lessons learned at previous Super Bowls. The MDPD, the designated lead law enforcement agency, responded by forming a host of committees to ensure that no detail was left unaddressed. Using the department’s prior Super Bowl Standard Operating Procedure and after-action reports as reference sources, the MDPD formed 40 committees and met as a group monthly to address planning matters. Each committee reported monthly on its progress and activities. After the discussion and review phase, committees were tasked with providing an operational plan (for standardization purposes, the format was provided by managers) and an anticipated budget, with a first draft due in the September preceding the event. Modifications, corrections, and refinements to that plan and budget could be and were made up to the day of the game. Consolidation of the various plans with attendant after-action reports and budget summaries became the department’s overall plan for the event.

Committees were divided into six functional areas of responsibility that included tactical, support, event, command post, crime suppression, and special operations.

Tactical operations committees included canine, bomb, dignitary protection, fire rescue liaison, and special-response team (SWAT) responsibilities. The contingent of tactical- and special-operations personnel and intelligence assets, for example, dramatically increased from the local, state, and federal perspectives as preparedness for any major incident was contemplated and became a fundamental issue. Consideration must be given to the potential for weapons of mass destruction or a mass casualty event. In short, with any high-profile event attended by more than 70,000 people and viewed by a worldwide audience, any occurrence that could negatively affect a large segment of that community—creating panic, fear, or damage to a major sports facility—must be contemplated.

Motorcycle escort of the Chicago Bears
Special operations involved committees that provided liaison with NFL management; liaison with the multitude of security representatives at Miami-area hotels; security for public transportation (buses and Metrorail); and security for the Chicago team at its hotel (the Indianapolis team was hosted by a hotel in the adjacent county) and its practice facility, which had been designated as the University of Miami. Lastly, numerous escorts provided by motor units (figure 1) were also part of this committee’s responsibilities.

As the name implies, the support operations committees included those responsibilities for communications; technical support; credentialing; aviation; marine assets; finance; and crime scenes and investigations related to product infringement, ticket scalping, and counterfeit tickets, among other related crimes. The credentialing process alone, which involves clearance and vetting by local and federal authorities for approximately 7,000 volunteers; 10,000 NFL employees, contractors, and vendors; and hundreds of law enforcement personnel, is no small endeavor yet indicative of post–September 11 challenges. Sheer volume renders this a monumental, time-sensitive task.

Even though the rate of major crimes in Miami–Dade County has experienced a significant decline in recent years, crime suppression committees were established to coordinate enforcement efforts. Recognizing that the protection of our citizenry and those who visit South Florida is paramount, the department enhanced narcotics enforcement, warrant service, gang enforcement, and antirobbery efforts throughout South Florida, including in the areas where Super Bowl–related events were to take place.

Event operations committees addressed any and all pregame and game day tasks associated with the actual stadium security and operations (figure 2). This included traffic and stadium access and large-scale, stadium-based social events. The engagements included the NFL Tailgate Party, NFL on Location, and the NFL Experience, a multiday interactive event including two concerts, attended by more than 50,000 people daily. Total attendance at this venue alone exceeded 150,000.

NFL Control Booth

A separate committee also worked to ensure that visiting law enforcement representatives, those responsible for planning for the next two Super Bowls, were accommodated and briefed regarding ongoing planning and operations.

While MDPD police managers were meeting regularly to engage and meet demands and responsibilities, the department assembled a Public Safety Committee and held meetings. These meetings were attended by any and all local, state, and federal law enforcement partners that shared in the myriad Super Bowl–related responsibilities.

Specific participation, support, and assistance of immeasurable value was provided by a host of principal federal agencies including, but not limited to, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Department of Homeland Security; the U.S. Secret Service; the U.S. Postal Service; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and various military components. Because the game was classified as a level 1 national security event, these resources were marshaled by a federal coordinator appointed by secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff. Their many functional responsibilities included those of intelligence and threat assessment, training, tactical and investigative operations, evidence collection, credentialing, and air defense and support, among others. A Joint Operations Center was established and staffed by representatives from each federal, state, and local agency to manage any and all intelligence as well as threat-related information and response. Federal coordinator Julie Torres, special agent in charge of the Miami field office of the ATF, reported that 33 federal agencies, 8 more than during the previous Super Bowl, supported Super Bowl XLI.

As with every Super Bowl host, South Florida has unique local jurisdictional responsibilities. The variety and type of social and promotional engagements associated with the Super Bowl demanded multi-agency participation and planning. Evening and daytime events during the many days leading up to the game were held at a variety of venues in several South Florida communities. Such events included banquets, galas, fashion shows, charity events, social cruises, VIP tours, concerts, and community service and other sponsored events, both sanctioned by the NFL and nonsanctioned. More than 25 local agencies provided some type of law enforcement support to these activities.

In addition to regular and consistent interaction with NFL security managers and their local representatives, who also attended monthly planning sessions and other critical meetings, a formal production meeting took place in the middle of December, a little over a month before the Super Bowl. Attended by local law enforcement representatives; NFL management; managers of Dolphin Stadium (the game site); and a multitude of Super Bowl contractors, vendors, and event planners, this working meeting began with a discussion and review of issues and plans. The meeting concluded with an hour-by-hour discussion of game day activities by all stakeholders. An NFL-initiated tabletop exercise one week before the game considered various potential security incidents in order to test the knowledge, flexibility, and preparedness of key decision makers.

NFL vice president for security Milton Ahlerich indicated that the NFL spent upwards of $6 million on security matters for Super Bowl XLI, including funding for a staff of 3,000 private security officers. Because the NFL does not provide financial support for the overwhelming majority of local, state, and federal law enforcement obligations, regular duty and overtime costs associated with this event can be staggering. The impact of such an event on an agency’s budget is a serious consideration, but it can be mitigated with appropriate long-range planning, budget adjustments, and support of local government administrators, particularly in light of the obvious positive economic effect on the host region. The NFL estimates that the Super Bowl added $350 million to the South Florida economy, as 120,000 visitors traveled to the area for game-related activities.

Figure 3. Security walk-through discussion
The lengthy law enforcement preparation process had many benefits. Its relevance to the disaster-planning process adds to the competency of agency personnel and organizational systems. Agencies have the opportunity to review, enact, and test their equipment, procedures, and policies (figure 3). Likewise, joint agency and interagency planning sessions, tabletop exercises, and hands-on training can prove to be invaluable for improving the skills of frontline and supervisory personnel as well as interagency interoperability.

The opportunity to obtain equipment, training materials, and other tangible resources may also present themselves. As attention is focused on this major event and the tools necessary to adequately prepare and respond to potential problems, managers are well advised to capitalize on such matters. Similarly, a multitude of vendors may offer their services and/or products. Local agencies with limited budgets, resources, and competing demands for capital items may be able to procure and use items not ordinarily available. In an ever-changing technological environment, use of such resources for even a trial period or at a reduced cost may be beneficial. In an era where magnetometers, x-ray screening, and sophisticated bomb and radiation detection have become the norm, equipment acquisition can include such technological advancements as cameras, communications technology, or specialized tactical equipment or vehicles.

One cannot overlook the importance and benefits of the interactions and relationships with others in both the private and public sector. The importance of professional development cannot be overstated, including enhancing an employee’s eligibility or competence in preparation for a planned change in role within the organization. Lastly, if local agencies manage the Super Bowl appropriately and professionally, their reputations may be enhanced not only in the law enforcement community but among the media, government, and other professional stakeholders.

Whereas Super Bowls before September 11, 2001—simpler times for law enforcement in the context of demonstrated domestic security threats from international terrorists—necessitated and generated a less-sophisticated response, the current local, national, and international climate mandate security enhancements that can be described only as taxing for any local jurisdiction. This is the ninth time South Florida has hosted the Super Bowl since its first opportunity in 1968, when ticket prices were $12 and the cost of a 30-second television commercial was $54,000; by comparison, the 2007 average ticket price was $600 and the price of such a commercial was $2.6 million. This dramatic difference parallels how security issues have become more complex over the years. Even though the list of responsibilities and tasks that multiple agencies must fulfill in order to maximize security is ponderous, every part of the community becomes charged with the excitement of the event. In Miami, everyone was satisfied that the job was well done and that the professional effort of participating agencies was both well received and appreciated.

Although security is a critical component of the Super Bowl event, law enforcement should present a low profile and provide a seamless presence in the view of attendees and the television viewing public. In the case of Super Bowl XLI, this goal was accomplished. Miami will play host to Super Bowl XLIV in 2010; although it may seem like the distant future, it will not be long before the NFL’s biggest game is paying another visit to South Florida.■



From The Police Chief, vol. 74, no. 9, September 2007. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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