With Super Bowl celebrations in full swing, downtown Minneapolis takes on military feel
By LIBOR JANY | Star Tribune (Minneapolis) | Published: January 30, 2018
MINNEAPOLIS (Tribune News Service) — With Super Bowl festivities kicking into full gear, Nicollet Mall has taken on a distinctly military feel.
Police officers with bomb-sniffing dogs have been in plain view in skyways and on downtown streets. And rifle-toting deputies in Army green fatigues and helmets stood watch over the newly-reopened Nicollet Mall, which has been swamped with visitors to the Super Bowl Live event.
Devon Bryant, 38, of St. Paul, accepts the added security as a necessary inconvenience that comes with hosting an event of such a magnitude.
“I would say it’s more jarring than anything else. It’s not like it’s not expected,” said Bryant, a bassist for the local rock trio FURY THINGS. “The security doesn’t bother me — I have to say, it’s just jarring on your normal route to see a military vehicle there, it’s just sorta incongruous.”
Lisa Cook noticed the beefed up police forces on her commute to work Tuesday morning.
By the time she reached downtown from her home in Northeast, she’d counted two “convoys” consisting of three “armored vehicles and a variety of marked and unmarked vans and trucks,” she wrote in an e-mail.
“The (National Guard) checkpoints extended to Washington and Third, and beyond to 4th and over to the stadium,” she wrote.
Police radio traffic crackled earlier this week with requests for K-9s to sniff unattended boxes and packages in the skyway. Certain areas were off-limits to those without the proper credentials.
Security guards in reflective vests and hats looked inside bags and underneath coats of visitors entering the cordoned-off intersection where Nicollet Mall meets 8th Street, site of the main Super Bowl Live stage.
Sharp-eyed passersby might spot officers from out of state, sent by their departments to Minneapolis under mutual aid agreements.
Police from Atlanta, which is hosting next year’s Super Bowl, and the St. Louis Airport were seen downtown recently, as was a K-9 officer bearing an insignia patch from the San Francisco Police Department.
Minneapolis police spokeswoman Sgt. Darcy Horn said the game’s security plan involves at least 3,000 law enforcement personnel — mostly officers, but also detectives and crime analysts from 60 law enforcement departments across the state and 40 federal agencies — during the lead-up to Sunday’s game.
“You’ll see some in uniforms, some will be in plainclothes, some tactical, some K-9,” Horn said, adding that she doesn’t anticipate slower 911 response times. She said that the department has taken steps to ensure that police services don’t suffer over the next week, such as canceling days off and increasing staffing at precinct station houses to respond to emergencies.
Earlier this month, police Chief Medaria Arradondo assured city officials that the heightened security wouldn’t resemble a “military occupation,” while acknowledging that people may notice more officers on the streets.
For the past few years, the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee and the Minneapolis Police Department have worked with area businesses on the massive security logistics behind the event, balancing hospitality and public safety. The game, considered by the Department of Homeland Security as a Level 1 “Special Event Assessment Rating” (SEAR), is expected to draw more than 125,000 visitors to state. Protecting out-of-towners and locals will involve what officials have deemed the largest security detail ever deployed in Minnesota, rivaling that at a presidential inauguration.
Last month, city officials requested help from the state National Guard to assist with security around U.S. Bank Stadium and at various NFL-sponsored events around the Twin Cities. About 400 guardsmen will be deployed at key events around town, and in St. Paul and Bloomington.
Officials haven’t disclosed any specific threats related to the event, but aren’t taking any chances.
Police squad cars are parked at the entrances to the promenade’s pedestrian area, along with concrete barriers, to guard against deadly vehicle-ramming attacks like those in Nice, France, Berlin and New York City. As pedestrians crossed Nicollet Mall at 10th Street on Monday evening, a pair of tan, armored Humvees rolled onto the street to block traffic in both directions. Only after the Don’t Walk sign flashed on and the last pedestrian had crossed, did they reopen the road.
There are unseen elements, too: snipers perched on rooftops and in buildings in strategic places around downtown and plainclothes officers blending into crowds to look for suspicious activity. A reporter visiting Nicollet Mall on Monday was approached by a man identifying himself as “NFL security,” who asked why the reporter was taking photographs of the bustling pedestrian promenade and asked to see his media credentials.
Meanwhile, police specialists, working out of a command center parked just south of the stadium, will monitor live feeds from hundreds of cameras across the city for any signs of trouble.