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Local officers work Super Bowl security

Members of the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office are tasked with patrolling some of the most remote areas of the state in a county that is the nation's largest east of the Mississippi River.

But over the next week, 13 deputies will find themselves working the crowded streets of a dense area surrounding U.S. Bank Stadium ahead of Super Bowl LII.

"A lot of us have never really had the chance to work in a large event," said Sgt. Brandon Silgjord. "We have deputies out of our Ely district who patrol along the Canadian border who are going to drive down to be part of the biggest event in the world."

Dozens of Northland officers are among the thousands of local, state and federal law enforcement officials who will work in and around the stadium before the NFL's champion is crowned on the night of Feb. 4.

The Minneapolis Police Department, the event's lead security agency, has only about 900 sworn officers — a number that pales in comparison to the 5,000 in last year's host city of Houston. That has forced the city to rely on joint-powers agreements with agencies across the state to temporarily bolster its numbers.

The sheriff's office and the Duluth Police Department were among those signing on to assist. Both agencies are sending officers who volunteered for extra-duty assignments, with their expenses to be reimbursed by Minneapolis.

Duluth has a total of 32 officers who will cycle in and out on their regular days off, Lt. Chad Nagorski said. Most officers who requested the assignment will get the opportunity to take part, he said.

"What a great experience," Nagorski said. "It's probably something you're only going to get to do once in your career."

For a three-hour game played one night a year, the Super Bowl has swelled into a celebration that includes more than a week of festivities in the host city. Duluth will have 15 officers in Minneapolis each day over a 10-day span that started Friday.

"The NFL has made it into like a destination vacation," Nagorski said. "There are so many events, so many sponsors hosting things. It's great for the economy and great for the state, and the city of Duluth gets to represent the quality work our officers do every day."

The Duluth officers' primary assignment is the fan-oriented Super Bowl Live event at Nicollet Mall, which features concerts and attractions, as well as serving as the site of national television broadcasts.

"Our main job is just community policing," Nagorski said. "We want to be interacting with people attending the events and keep the place safe. One of the biggest things is to just have positive interactions. We're not just representing the police department, but we're representing Minnesota law enforcement to people from all around the world."

The sheriff's office also will have some presence at the Super Bowl Live event, Silgjord said, but the deputies will mainly be partnered with Minneapolis officers working downtown beat shifts.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security classifies the Super Bowl as Level 1 Special Event, requiring the highest levels of security. Complicating matters is U.S. Bank Stadium's urban setting, sandwiched between condos, office buildings and bars and restaurants.

"We have three different ID cards," Silgjord said. "One of them we won't even get until game day."

While Minneapolis police have been preparing for the event since it was announced nearly four years ago, outside agencies also have had to work ahead. After Minneapolis put out a statewide request for assistance, Silgjord said the sheriff's office in July had to provide notice of how many deputies would be able to participate.

After working out financial and logistical considerations, those taking part have undergone orientation and training sessions. The officers on-site also will receive daily security briefings.

But for an event that hasn't taken place in Minnesota since 1992, Silgjord said the experience is worthwhile. He and Nagorski are both excited that they've received assignments to work within the stadium itself on gameday.

"The last I checked, none of us had ever been to a Super Bowl before," Silgjord said of his team. "I was 7 or 8 years old the last time it was here, so I look at it as something different to try. I'll be able to save those specialized badges to show to my kids and grandkids."