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SUPER BOWL SPECIAL : SECURITY: : Tipsy But Comparatively Subdued Super Fans Will Be Well-Protected

January 29, 1988|RICHARD A. SERRANO | Times Staff Writer

At last year's Super Bowl in Pasadena, Jim Kennedy sat scrunched in the seats along with 100,000-plus privileged fans who witnessed professional football's annual rite to itself.

Sitting next to him were several New Yorkers, cheering on their soon-to-be-champion Giants. The weather was cool and crisp, Kennedy recalled, but this shirtless bunch was jumping and shouting, and swilling beer.

"The guy next to me drank 20 beers," Kennedy said. "He was so drunk he couldn't stand up. But he was not unruly. He apologized every time he fell in my lap."

Kennedy, a San Diego police commander, says he left Pasadena having learned two lessons.

One: A Super Bowl fan is not the typical, raucous football spectator. He has spent a lot of money to get there and he plans to fully enjoy himself, but not to the point of being rude and offensive and creating security problems.

Two: High-level security can be organized at a Super Bowl without interfering with fans' enjoyment of the game.

Applying those lessons, a contingent of law enforcement and emergency preparedness experts--led by Kennedy--has fortified San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium without making it look like a fortress.

When an estimated crowd of 74,500 football fans passes through the turnstiles Sunday for Super Bowl XXII, here's what they likely won't see:

Rooftop observation posts will already be manned.

A bomb squad and dogs will be waiting in the stadium wings.

A team of SWAT officers will be poised on standby.

Special agents will be eyeing the aisles while undercover officers work the crowd.

Authorities also plan to restrict air traffic over the stadium.

To further improve their response capabilities, officers have found a spot in one of the stadium corners that allows a 320-degree view of the field and stands.

"We're ready for everything, including a Russian submarine coming up the San Diego River bed," said San Diego Police Lt. Bob Jones, who has worked the stadium security detail for three years, lent a hand during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and is Kennedy's right-hand man for Sunday's NFL title game.

Of equal concern is making sure their efforts do not intrude on the fans' enjoyment of what is arguably the nation's biggest one-time sporting event.

'It's a Festive Attitude'

"We don't want to unnecessarily worry anyone," said Kennedy. "The fans are there to have fun. It's a festive attitude."

Kennedy said he reached that conclusion after observing the Pasadena game, then attending numerous strategy sessions with NFL security officials and Lt. Roger Kelley of the Pasadena Police Department.

Kelley said he has worked three Super Bowls in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and planned the security for the fourth there last year.

"By and large, the crowds are just super," he said. "When you have out-of-state crowds, they have paid so much money to come out that they really want to go see the game. And even though they've been drinking a little bit, for the most part they're a happy-go-lucky group."

According to his statistics, police during Super Bowl XXI made 44 felony arrests: Forty-one for pickpocketting, two for possession of cocaine and one for burglarizing a car parked outside. Misdemeanor arrests numbered 24: Twenty for being drunk and disorderly, two for trespassing, and one each for ticket scalping and possession of marijuana.

"We had one episode where a group of people tried to gate-crash," Kelley said. "But we had men right there who were walking along the fence they tried to scale. We pushed them off."

Bomb Threat Unfounded

Kelley also said police received one bomb threat during the game, forwarded to them from the FBI after a Connecticut man claiming ties to a Mideast terrorist group called authorities and said an explosive device was going to detonate inside the stadium.

With 30 minutes' lead time, police and ushers inspected key areas of the stadium and found nothing. He said the game was not interrupted.

Likewise, San Diego authorities have prepared for the inevitable. Police began preparing months ago for the game, meeting with league officials, learning what to expect and how to muster their forces.

Earlier this week, officers were positioned at the stadium and officials began sweeping and inspecting the facility, monitoring who and what was coming in, already tightening security.

Now, with Game Day fast approaching, Kennedy estimates that the San Diego Police Department will spend $60,000 in providing security--the bulk of it to cover overtime and across-the-board canceled vacations for police officers.

Troupes of Pickpockets

Without providing a lot of specifics (for security reasons), Kennedy and Jones said there will be strict policing of pickpocketting. Undercover officers, aware that a group of professional pickpockets travel around the country to major sporting events, will be mingling with the crowd.

Officers said that pickpockets often will steal wallets, then use the tickets to enter the stadium and continue their thievery.

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