Police Parlay Plans for Super Bowl Safety

By Stephen Owsinski

Up front: this piece is relegated to the significant efforts planned and performed by tons of law enforcement agencies whose collective spirit is based in public safety and delivery of a fun-filled time for spectators of an annually ritualized athletic event that happens to involve an entity —the NFL— which is not necessarily an ardent police supporter.

In fact, once again we see the oath-filling cops stepping up despite the anti-this or anti-that philosophies of kneelers who we’ve seen openly decline standing with rapt admiration for the flag while our nation’s hymnal is bellowed out.

Having prefaced that, let’s get into some meaty goods and take stock in the myriad ways our police personnel fulfill duties despite the COVID-restricted venue and the anti-cop sorts who may be on the grid iron or lurking at the periphery.

Two firsts occur with regard to this year’s Super Bowl: one, it is the first time in history that a team playing in the big game is also hosting the mega event…and that segues to point number two, it is the first Super Bowl held during a pandemic, the restrictions of which may help police (fewer crowds to funnel) or hinder (overwhelm of crowds outside, some of whom have openly boasted they will not be made to wear a mask). Challenges, challenges, challenges…mostly outside of the grassy field.

(Photo courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.)

As former Tampa Police chief and current Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said, “We’ll make the best of it.” The main worry is too many people too close together and mired with sensational hoopla may actually serve as “super-spreaders” of the coronavirus. Valid concern. As far as cops are concerned, personal responsibility (as usual) is expected and respected.

According to The New York Times, roughly “7,500 of the people attending Sunday’s game will be vaccinated health care workers invited by [the League] to thank them for a year of arduous work.”

Welp, at least the League justly recognizes these clinical heroes…LEOs often among them who also perform heroic deeds.

Naturally, from both a safety standpoint and a public health initiative, Tampa Bay law enforcement and their partners situated matters so that vehicular and pedestrian traffic is far more stringently minimized than pre-COVID routines at the stadium.

As Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said, “[People] are going to be disappointed. They aren’t going to be able to get close” to the stadium.

A BayNews9 report indicated that “It’s an exciting time for Bucs fans across the Bay area, but it is also presenting some unique challenges for police that are looking to secure Raymond James Stadium from thousands of cheering fans who don’t have tickets.” Having been one cop among many who worked “Ray Jay” in the past, the excitement ordinarily fueled by alcohol-filled bellies and a newfound gutsy mentality culminating in physical fights on steep concrete stairs is no fun-filled jamboree for police personnel.

Rest assured though, internal and external precautions with utmost forethought and logistical supports are undertaken. Reporter Jason Lanning described a U.S.Capitol-like fortress around the football stadium: “A security compound around the stadium with fences and concrete barricades” have been situated as part of the overall public safety plan.

This year, the Super Bowl happens to be in my back yard, with many cohorts from varying Tampa Bay area police agencies being aided by an alphabet soup of federal agencies/agents in town working the event.

Pre-game festivities —formally dubbed the Super Bowl Experience—have transpired for days, availing many cool sights and spectacles, including police horses with their very own emergency lighting equipment.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office social media unit, “horses are color blind, but one color they can see is BLUE!” Welp, that seems apropos. And it redefines “taillights” like never before.

The stated purpose for the novelty of police horse taillights is to be more readily spotted at night. Highlighting that point is the glow-in-the-dark “SHERIFF” or “POLICE” reflective lettering across law enforcement attire (shirts). This accomplishes a go-to beacon for folks in need as well as a visual deterrence for would-be criminals preying on a large crowd of highly distracted revelers.

Speaking of novelty, the sheriff’s office Bicycle Response Team (BRT) will have showtime at their first-ever major event appearance, perfectly adaptable to utilize the unit’s 18 assigned deputies roving on bikes and navigating tight squeezes where patrol cruisers cannot proceed.

(Photo courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.)

As the host agency, HCSO’s bike unit is supplemented by other bicycle cadres from surrounding police departments. The University of South Florida Police Department sent a contingent of campus cops on police bicycles to bolster patrol efforts.

(Photo courtesy of the University of South Florida Police Department.)

A certainly formidable law enforcement asset for any given public safety operation, police canines are roving grounds and sniffing out stuff for human counterparts to consider, for general patrol/deterrence of illicit-minded fools preying in the area, and good ole public relations. Dogs of all kinds are present and dutifully deployed, primary of which are bomb-detecting canines.

Throughout several weeks before game-day, local, state, and federal bomb-sniffing dogs are widely used by canine cops, essentially roving every inch and poking a canine nose near every nook and cranny—Raymond James Stadium contains 65,618 seats. It’s a post-9/11-induced ritual, especially at gatherings involving mega public aggregation.

Speaking of dogs, while out walking mine along the beach Friday night, an Air Force flyover was seen by many—social media posts were immediately populated with short cell-phone footage depicting an Air Force Stratotanker, a B-1 and a B-2. Fascinating stuff culminating in patriotic hairs standing tall.

According to First Coast News, a “trifecta bomber flyover” is incorporating a Stratotanker with Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, making for a pre-game history-making spectacle with its formation of the aforementioned military assets to usher in Super Bowl LV by exhibiting an in-flight refueling requiring precision and coordination.

Per 10 Tampa Bay reporter Courtney Robinson, “A B-52 from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, a B-1 from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, and a B-2 from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri will take off from their home bases and join up over the United States,” with a collective destiny of Tampa.

“MacDill’s pride, the KC-135 Stratotanker, will refuel each bomber mid-air before they get into formation and fly over Raymond James Stadium,” superseding the game-opening “Star-Spangled Banner,” Robinson explained.  

Just like law enforcement executives exuding advance planning acuity for this grand-scale athletic event, the military paralleled with its own brand of fine detail and calculus with Super Bowl application: the sum of all the numbers denoting the type of aircraft doing the flyover adds up to 55…symbolizing Super Bowl 55. Air Force Times confirmed this mathematical equation as no coincidence.

And that flyover will see this below (except with people contained and players on the gridiron):

Incidentally, the planned pre-game flyover is one reason law enforcement authorities echoed a “no-drone zone” endorsed and enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), ticking off many local drone operators hoping to get an aerial glimpse of the stadium spectacle which, if violated, subjects droners to “a $30,000 fine and criminal prosecution,” according to the Tampa Bay Public Safety Joint Information Center.

PSA spots have been posted to announce prohibitions against drone use within a certain radius around the Super Bowl stadium in Tampa. The hubbub from enthusiasts is that the radius of 30 nautical miles is overly broad and unnecessarily restraining drone operators from exercising use without any intent to occupy the stadium airspace. Violations have already been detected, resulting in FBI arrests.

(Photo courtesy of the Federal Aviation Administration.)

This “no-drone zone” aspect harkens to protective measures taken with regard to target-rich events whereby radicals skilled in inflicting terror —maybe via a drone— become the focus of public safety professionals preemptively thwarting every threatening means…to the dismay of drone hobbyists. The trade-off we bear since 9/11.

Given the game is in Hillsborough County, Florida, the county seat of which is the city of Tampa, both the county sheriff and the city police chief joined forces not only between their respective agencies but also among a reported 70-plus other law enforcement agencies and their respective equipment, echoing an “all hands on deck” effort by law enforcement, especially. Mutual aid is not just supplied locally.

For example, the Dallas, Texas police department dispatched their police canine duo consisting of Senior Corporal Andre Cloyd and K9 Zigi to help Tampa LEOs safeguard the stadium venue.

(Photo courtesy of the Tampa Police Department.)

And to convey Super Bowl-related messaging to Tampa’s large Latin community, a Tampa Spanish-speaking detective was interviewed by Telemundo and played a role in a PSA regarding the big game and what to expect.

With such a large-scale event involving people from all over the globe, the sex trafficking trade takes usual advantage. I’ve covered this in previous articles about Super Bowls and covert law enforcement operations leading up to game-day: “The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is committed to ending human trafficking every day of the year, not just during a major sporting event like the Super Bowl,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

Synonymous with sex traffickers at Super Bowl games are fraudsters peddling counterfeit goods. Every year, local cops are aided by federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, covertly among the crowd of souvenir-happy unsuspecting purchasers and the sellers who line their pockets with exorbitant fees for fake merchandise.

At last year’s Super Bowl, federal agents nabbed a bevy of fraudsters and confiscated approximately $123 million in counterfeit merchandise.

Since Tampa Bay is a major maritime port with massive trade whereby enormous ships dock to load/offload tonnage in goods, such a factor is of major concern when it comes to terrorists seeking a way to covertly deploy destructive devices in/around target-rich venues and events, like the Super Bowl.

In the maritime context, Bay area law enforcement entities which have their own marine units, designed to not only patrol waterways in/around Tampa Bay but also deploy divers to inspect the hulls of cargo ships and other waterborne craft, are aided by federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard and sub-agencies under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security umbrella. Expressly, police dive teams submerge and scrutinize the props and such, looking for any devices which may be set to detonate

during a window of live football action, potentially/intentionally designed to draw away police attention/resources so as to deploy a secondary (primary objective) attack at/near the stadium.

We see that there are many accounts to take into consideration, equating to law enforcement having their hands full before, during, and after game day (some folks stay in town for a longer spell).

Ultimately, the many moving parts amid various public safety agencies partnered in ensuring a successful and enjoyable event for all individuals is the product of years in the making coming to fruition. When any city bids for future consideration of hosting a Super Bowl, it must endure rigorous scrutiny and meet many standards stipulated by the League, involves millions in capital investments, requires established transportation infrastructure, and largely underscores the necessity of formidable public safety assets (yes, the League dismissing and disrespecting LEOs demands beefed-up police resources for their profiteering empire).

I’ve written about this last year, published right here on NPA.

As I mentioned at the onset of this material, cops are gonna show up regardless of the pushback, because they swore that proverbial oath to serve and protect all parties, even overly-compensated social justice warrior prima donnas.  

It is common for all LEOs working any Super Bowl event to be formally granted a commemorative badge denoting that respective Super Bowl game; the hosting agency (HCSO) deputies are gifted one of these:

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