Dozens of cameras, 2 miles of fences, 100 police dogs: What Super Bowl security will look like
MINNEAPOLIS — Even before Minnesota's bid to host Super Bowl LII was accepted, the Minneapolis police department was preparing for the event.
Forty-one planning groups put together a security plan that will be seen in the sky and in animal form and will take advantage of advanced technology. Then there is the undercover operation.
"This is undoubtedly the largest extended public safety operation our area has ever experienced," Minneapolis Police Commander Scott Gerlicher, the public safety coordinator for Super Bowl LII, wrote in an email. "It is massive in size and scope and covers really the entire metropolitan area. It is larger than the (Republican National Convention), and the Super Bowl in 1992 was so long ago that it just wasn't as big in scope as they seem to have become in recent years."
The Super Bowl is categorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a Level One Special Event Assessment Rating, meaning it has the highest threat level to public safety.
The rating also qualifies the city for federal resources. Super Bowl LII — it's the 52nd; the NFL prefers to use Roman numerals — will use a larger deployment of federal resources than any past Super Bowl, according to Gerlicher.
The $3.1 million price tag for overall security will be reimbursed by the Super Bowl Host Committee.
What you will and won't see
Hosting a Super Bowl isn't just a one-day affair for public safety. Stringent security will begin Jan. 26 with slight increases through Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 4, a full 10-day operational period.
Thousands of officers will flood the city, some decked out in SWAT gear, others roaming undercover, and hundreds more patrolling in regular uniform.
The coverage is a cross between Santa Clara's coverage in 2016, which received some criticism for its high visibility, and Houston's in 2017, which was more undercover.
"We will have a highly visible law enforcement presence," Gerlicher said, but officers want to convey a friendly environment to the public. "They're all very excited about this. This is kind of a once-in-a-career opportunity for them as well."
In addition to police cruisers, officers will also be seen in four- and six-passenger all-terrain vehicles and helicopters. There will be flight restrictions over U.S. Bank Stadium on game day. More than 2 miles of fencing and concrete barriers will surround the stadium and nearby areas.
Getting into that secured perimeter will require going through metal detectors and and bag checks.
The department plans to install dozens of security cameras and to bring in more than 100 explosive-detection dogs. It will have a bomb squad, 3D maps and new technology to track locations of officers in the field. Gerlicher declined to say if there would be snipers, which Santa Clara employed, but said there definitely would not be a Patriot missile launcher nearby, which Santa Clara reportedly had.
One of the biggest challenges remaining will be responding to the number of people without tickets. Police don't know how large that crowd could be.
"You have to deal with a large number of people that ... want to be a part of game-day festivities," said Lt. Dan Moreno of the Santa Clara Police Department. "They're just kind of loitering, and that (number) is always an unknown."
The Minneapolis Police Department doesn't expect a wave of crime over the 10 days, but it does plan to enhance its system to respond to sex trafficking, which has previously been associated with the Super Bowl.
Officers, space and weather
Members of the the core Super Bowl planning team attended the past two Super Bowls in preparation, but Minneapolis will face some unique challenges.
For instance, when Houston hosted Super Bowl LI, the city's police department had more than 5,000 officers to pull from. The Minneapolis Police Department has about 870 officers.
The city will be relying heavily on others — the State Patrol, federal agents and officers from more than 50 in-state jurisdictions — for extra enforcement.
Finding places for all of those officers posed another problem, since downtown is tight on space.
In many host cities, the stadium is located in the suburbs. U.S. Bank Stadium is in downtown Minneapolis, making it much harder to secure the perimeter of the stadium and surrounding areas.
Minneapolis is also arguably the coldest city to host the Super Bowl. It has been held in Detroit, Indianapolis and East Rutherford, N.J., but the event is typically awarded to warmer climates. All but 15 of the past 51 Super Bowls have been in California, Florida or Louisiana.
On the plus side, colder temperatures could also mean fewer visitors, according to Santa Clara's Moreno.
"The (Minneapolis Police Department) might not have to worry as much about people showing up that aren't ticketed if it's adverse weather," he said.
'We still have a city to run'
Not every officer will know every contingency plan. They'll be trained in procedures for their specific assignment areas, and there will be an orientation session to familiarize out-of-town officers with Minneapolis' systems.
Representatives from the Minneapolis, Bloomington and St. Paul police departments; the FBI; and the Department of Homeland Security will be stationed at various command centers throughout the city.
"All the key players will be in the same location so we can be aware of what's happening and shift resources as necessary," Gerlicher said.
It's a team effort around the stadium, but each city's jurisdiction will be responsible for its own day-to-day operations, including Minneapolis.
"We still have a city to run. Business goes on as usual. It will be normal operations in all of our five precincts," Gerlicher said.
Staffing will be higher in some precincts than typically in February, which is usually the slowest time of year for crime. Minneapolis residents shouldn't feel any impact in terms of response time or investigation functions, he added.
"We're hoping it's kind of a seamless process for the permanent residents of our town," Gerlicher said.
There will be no vacation allowed, and many officers will be clocking overtime hours, both in Minneapolis and in surrounding cities.
In Bloomington, home to the Mall of America and many hotels for NFL affiliates, residents can expect an increased security presence as well.
"There's been monthly if not biweekly meetings that have addressed training and equipment and logistics," Bloomington Deputy Chief Mike Hartley said.
The entire metro is taking public safety seriously, but Gerlicher stressed he hopes it's a fun experience too.
"Our goal is to make sure when residents or visitors leave Minneapolis that they leave saying 'That was a great experience, not just from a party perspective, but I felt really safe,' " Gerlicher said. "We just want them to leave our town saying 'This is an incredible experience all-around.' "