SuperSize Security

By Michael A. Gips

When Super Bowl XXXII unfolds later this month at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, two top teams will have the chance to test their skill on the field. The match represents the culmination of an entire season of preparation for the players. The same can be said of the public and private security organizations that are working off the field to secure the big game and attendant celebrations.

Their work began long before anyone could have predicted which two teams would compete--and well before they could be certain whether unrelated incidents might create security concerns, as occurred in 1991. In that year, Super Bowl XXV coincided with Operation Desert Storm, and based on intelligence from government agents, security personnel used magnetometers to screen fans on entry to the event. Should a serious threat emerge as this year's game approaches, the authorities are again prepared to ratchet up security on short notice.

The key to making the task manageable is preparation. Therefore, even before the first ball of the season was snapped, the Super Bowl host committee, formed by the city to coordinate responsibilities for the event, had established the security planning committee, led by Assistant Chief Dave Bejarano of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD).

The SDPD had gained experience handling large events when it played a similar role in securing the August 1996 Republican National Convention (RNC). But SDPD Captain Larry Moratto, who heads the planning committee's operations subcommittee, points out that Super Bowl security forces will be responsible for many more venues than they were during the political convention.

The Republican convention, he notes, was largely centered on the protection of political VIPs at the San Diego Convention Center; the Super Bowl, however, will demand coverage not only of the stadium but also of the various party and event venues, team members' hotels, downtown areas, and city streets. At the same time, normal staffing levels have to be maintained to fulfill the everyday needs of the city.


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