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Security management for a major event.

Managing security for a major event is one of the most formidable tasks that a police manager can race. Security for these events involves the participation and resources of federal agencies, state and local police departments, college and university police, transportation police, and a host of other law enforcement organizations. Each of these agencies has its own mission, jurisdiction, legal authority, culture, management philosophy, and operating policies and procedures. Security managers must work with these organizations and, with their cooperation and assistance, coordinate an overall security plan for the event.

One such major event occurred a few years ago when the city of New Haven, Connecticut, and the surrounding area hosted the 9-day Special Olympics World Games for athletes with mental disabilities. The games required the cooperation of over six nearby cities and towns, involved more than 7,000 athletes from around the world, and attracted hundreds of thousands of spectators.


Athletic events at the Special Olympics took place at a number of sites throughout the greater New Haven area including Yale University, Southern Connecticut State University, The University of New Haven, and Albertus Magnus College. Additional competition sites were located in the municipalities of New London, Old Lyme, and West Haven. The games were highlighted by numerous special events and exhibits including a maritime festival, a theme park, parades, and a fireworks display on July 4th. The opening and closing ceremonies featured a variety of popular entertainers and the attendance of the President and First Lady. Over the course of the games, attendance reached an estimated 650,000.

The games' organizing committee performed the overall management of the Special Olympics. This committee managed over 100 other committees which, in turn, were staffed by more than 30,000 volunteers. The security committee comprised 130 civilian and sworn personnel, representing 35 agencies. The committee included law enforcement representatives from federal, state, and local government; college and university police departments; railroad police agencies; hospital police departments; private security services; the U.S. Attorney's Office; the State's Attorney's Office for the Judicial District of New Haven; and a regional police management services organization.



Security managers must allot sufficient time for planning complex events of this scope because planning is the primary management function upon which all other management functions are based.(1) Security planning for the Special Olympics began 2 years before the opening ceremonies. This planning included examining the event's mission, defining the event's objectives, and determining how those objectives would be best achieved.(2)

When planning the security for a major event, security managers must establish objectives early on and clearly communicate those objectives to all personnel. Security managers first should familiarize themselves with the objectives of the event's organizing committee as well as those of the supporting committees because these objectives will affect the subsequent security plan. As with any organization, the objectives of all its parts must coincide. At the Special Olympics, some of the security objectives stipulated that:

* even with a comprehensive security presence in place, the games should remain an event of public participation;

* all interstate highways should remain open, even during peak traffic periods and major events;

* intelligence information should be as complete as possible and expeditiously transmitted to and from field officers; and

* a handbook on security issues should be available to all law enforcement officers.

Security managers should communicate frequently with event managers and other committee managers to ensure that the security unit's objectives do not conflict with the other units' objectives. This way, conflicts can be resolved at an early stage. For example, throughout the planning process for the Special Olympics, concerns about satellite parking areas and the transportation of spectators arose because many sites did not have sufficient on-site parking. The security committee assisted the transportation committee in addressing a number of security issues, including satellite parking lot safety and traffic control. Another issue involved determining the safest method to shuttle large numbers of people, many of whom did not understand English, to the correct satellite lot.

Resolution of these types of issues frequently requires attendance at a large number of meetings that may drain the security manager's time. Yet, such issues require constant monitoring because the objectives of units often change, especially early in the planning process, and the security manager needs to react to these changes. Although security managers should attend as many committee meetings as possible, and while continuity and centralized decision-making prove helpful at this stage, they should involve additional personnel with different expertise in the security planning.

The Security Management Committee

Security managers must keep several important issues in mind when assembling the security management committee. All candidates for the committee naturally will owe a first loyalty to their own departments and organizations. While supportive of the committee's objectives, individual organization's objectives may take precedence. Therefore, security managers must reemphasize the committee's objectives and how each agency contributes to these goals on a regular basis to help maximize cooperation and commitment.

Security managers should know the value structure and culture of participating law enforcement agencies, either by reflecting upon past experiences with the organizations or by talking with others who have worked directly with them. This knowledge will help security managers better understand how each agency may interact with the others. For example, departments with community policing experience that have worked with diverse populations may work well together and prove particularly suitable for specific assignments. Similarly, agencies that are more technologically advanced and whose officers adapt well to computer applications may mesh well on highly technical assignments. Jurisdictional issues may limit these assignments, but when flexibility does exist, knowing an organization's values and culture may prove helpful in deciding its role and with which agencies it would best work.

Security managers must identify decision-making power sources, especially those who will have the ultimate authority and jurisdiction over particular security issues or unexpected incidents ranging from natural disasters to bomb threats. The final authority may vary due to the situation but likely will fall on representatives of the event's organizing committee, the security manager, or the head of an agency. Some final decisions may depend on a collaboration of the three. At the Special Olympics, for example, the U.S. Coast Guard assumed the lead role for incidents taking place on Long Island Sound, and the U.S. Secret Service handled all dignitary matters. Once the key decision makers are identified, security managers should attempt to solidify their support and encourage them to participate in the development and implementation of the security plan.

Finally, group dynamics can have a profound effect on committee management and limit its ability to make decisions. Individuals who work on security should come from varying backgrounds and have different areas of expertise. Ideally, this should make the successful implementation of solutions easier because more people are contributing to the problem-solving process. However, sometimes a few people with aggressive personalities can dominate a group and diminish its effectiveness. Some group members may be close minded on specific topics and reject actions that seem contrary to their beliefs. Other members may be indifferent because, ultimately, providing security for major events is an impermanent task, and the security mission will end with the conclusion of the event. On the other hand, another group dynamic can occur when members lose their ability to evaluate critically due to the need to conform.(3) This dynamic, called "groupthink," can result in poor decision making.(4)

Additional Considerations

After identifying its objectives, the security management committee should list and analyze alternate ways of achieving them. On what assumptions is an alternative based? What is the real issue that must be addressed? Will the alternative resolve the issue? Can the alternative be implemented successfully? As these questions are answered, the best alternative for reaching each security objective will emerge so that a course of action can be developed.

The preparation of the security handbook represents one example of this process. The security management committee considered a number of alternatives regarding how to best present a variety of critical event information, what information to include, and how to print and distribute the booklet in a timely manner.

Throughout the planning process, the security management committee must identify and evaluate factors that may help or hinder its objectives. For the Special Olympics, the strongest aids to formulating and implementing a plan included the great sense of cooperation and commitment of resources from the police organizations. However, factors such as a department experiencing labor unrest or severe budgetary constraints can limit the ability to reach an objective by affecting the commitment of personnel and other resources.

Security managers may need to research the legal requirements needed for officers of one jurisdiction to enter another jurisdiction and assist with police operations. While some of these factors reach beyond the ability of security managers to control, they must be identified and assessed before appropriate actions, if necessary, can be taken.

Security managers also may need to become knowledgeable about other cultural and environmental issues, such as any conflicts that may exist between participants, event attendance projections, and traffic concerns. A network of resources can monitor and communicate this information to other committees. For example, at the Special Olympics, the Department of State handled international information and the games organizing committee monitored attendance projections.


Organization is the process of establishing orderly uses for all management resources.(5) Managers use organization to establish the relationships between resources and define how those resources will be used.(6) As the security plan develops and the number of agencies involved grows, a more formal organizational structure should evolve to identify overall security functions and agency responsibilities. An organizational chart can help clarify how the various functions and agencies interrelate and how individual activities contribute to the overall security mission.

Security managers must foster coordination among the agencies involved to ensure that the activities of the independent departments are integrated sufficiently. With so many agencies participating, each with their own authorities and chains of command, expecting members of other departments to adhere to a traditional management hierarchy or another organization's chain of command may not be feasible. Similarly, even if sufficient time existed to establish formal rules and procedures, they likely would be counterproductive because, first and foremost, the members of each agency must follow the rules of their particular organization.

Strengthening lateral relationships appears to have the most potential for supporting the coordination of these types of events. Lateral relationships cut across the chain of command and allow individuals to exchange information at the levels where it is most needed. The very existence of the security management committee promotes lateral relationships because by definition, the committee is staffed by members of different organizations who channel their efforts and expertise toward a common objective. One-on-one communication between the persons who actually work on a problem helps to alleviate confusion, prevent duplication of effort, and reinforce commitment to the chosen plan of action.


Resource availability represents another important security issue. Security managers should compare the number of officers available in the law enforcement agencies involved and assess how many officers they will need. This projection should take into account the number of days and hours per day that each officer will have to work. Security managers also should consider officer fatigue during extremely long events.

If the number of agency personnel available cannot meet the anticipated needs, security managers should seek additional personnel elsewhere and consider the legal requirements of obtaining assistance from other municipal departments. Police agencies in South Central Connecticut participate in a mutual assistance compact that researches the legal and financial obligations of borrowing and providing personnel. Because not all areas have formal compacts, security managers should research these questions at least 1 year before the event.

As planning for a multijurisdictional event develops, security managers will need to contact a number of agencies with various jurisdictions for support, including the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Coast Guard. State agencies, such as the state police, national guard, and the Department of Environmental Protection, may also need to be enlisted. Agencies whose primary jurisdiction involves providing police services for transportation systems also should be represented. This may include the Federal Aviation Administration and railroad police departments. University and college police departments may be involved, especially regarding athlete housing. The services of private and volunteer security organizations also may prove valuable.

Individuals and units with special expertise can be very important. These units may include explosives disposal, air support, marine support, emergency services units, canine patrols, and horse-mounted units. They also may include specialized equipment, computers, and management support. The presence of police legal advisors or representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office and state attorney's office can provide valuable legal advice. Security managers should make arrangements for representatives from the National Weather Service or Federal Emergency Management Service Administration to stay in close communication with security personnel with information on weather conditions. For the Special Olympics, the U.S. Department of State provided protocol and diplomatic immunity information and the Department of Immigration and Naturalization supplied guidelines for handling incidents involving defections or requests for asylum.

Finally, determining resource availability involves more than ascertaining committed personnel and cooperating organizations. Security managers must ensure the availability of the equipment needed for the assigned tasks. This includes automobiles, truck transports, motorcycles, barricades, traffic cones, and reflective vests. Security managers must confirm the availability of appropriate housing and office equipment and make arrangements for on-site food and supplies to meet the needs of the assigned personnel.

Resources at the event sites must also be assessed. The most critical sites are those that have large or otherwise unusual events or those sites where dignitaries are present. Security management committee staff should visit and revisit all locations to determine site layouts, tent or building placements, the location of walkways and driveways for pedestrian and vehicular traffic, electrical and water sources, lighting availability, and the presence of fences or barricades. The security management committee should work actively with other committees to ensure the suitability of each of these sites for security operations.


The organization of the security operations center and determining its site and operating staff represent some of the most significant decisions the security management committee makes at a multijurisdictional event. The center brings all of the participating agencies together at one location to better facilitate information exchange and coordination. This centralization deters other agencies from functioning too independently and making their own operational decisions.

At the Special Olympics, the operations center housed approximately 12 people while events were taking place, including personnel from the various municipal police departments, the Connecticut State Police, the Coast Guard, air traffic control officials, campus police, and the state's attorney's office. Civilian dispatchers handled telephone and radio transmissions and other civilian personnel handled day-to-day record keeping. Although staff was reduced when events were not occurring, the center remained open 24 hours a day.

The security operations center ideally should be located in the same building as the management committee for the overall event. This allows for more efficient communication between security managers and event organizers, especially during times of crisis. However, it is crucial that only law enforcement personnel and those with appropriate clearances are allowed into the security operations center offices.

The security operations center likely will face some of the same logistical concerns police departments handle every day, such as the need for security clearance, space, and equipment. The security offices must have a system of access control to clear persons entering. At the Special Olympics, Connecticut sheriffs at the main entrance checked security credentials and cleared visitors. Sufficient office space, furniture, and communications equipment, including telephone, radio, computers, and fax equipment are essential.

If necessary, the security management committee should make arrangements for personal needs, such as meals and sleeping accommodations. The Salvation Army provided meals for security personnel during the Special Olympics. Briefings should occur as events dictate. Security personnel should keep accurate records to combat potential civil liability actions as well as to assist in the preparation of an after-action report.


Communications represent a cornerstone to coordinating a multijurisdictional operation. Early in the planning process, security managers should assess the available radio equipment, including in-house radio capabilities, to ensure that the radio channel can support agency communications for both the event and the agency's normal police operation. If a second channel exists, such as an interdepartmental frequency, it should be made available. During the Special Olympics, a regional law enforcement channel was used widely and served as the primary frequency for those events where several different organizations worked at one site. If inadequate radio resources still pose a problem, security managers should send applications for additional equipment and frequencies to the federal government, particularly the Department of Defense special events section. These applications should be sent 6 to 8 months prior to the event to allow for processing time.

Radio channels can be overused easily during times of high personnel deployment. To guard against this, all officers should carefully follow radio usage procedures and not override the messages of others. However, when the threat of overloading a frequency remains, security managers must take steps to access other channels and limit the number of individuals operating on any one channel.

During the security planning process, security management committee staff should review sites to ensure the installation of enough telephones. Site reviews should take place more than once to accommodate changes. Each agency will require telephones, and several telephones should be placed in conference rooms or other rooms where decision makers will gather in the event of a crisis. Telephone installation should follow a timetable that permits the distribution of telephone numbers to all appropriate personnel well in advance of the major event.

Similarly, fax equipment and the required lines should be obtained and installed. At the Special Olympics, the fax proved particularly useful for sending broadcasts such as weather advisories and intelligence briefs, as well as for broadcasting messages pertaining to specific incidents and situations. Sufficient fax machines in the operations centers will avoid message delays and overloading communication lines.

Paging devices and cellular telephones will prove invaluable, and security managers should arrange for the distribution of this equipment to all appropriate personnel. Of course, cellular telephone users should exercise caution during highly confidential conversations. Further, other personnel also may use cellular phones, creating congestion. If the magnitude of the event warrants, security managers should consider establishing a dedicated satellite linkup to handle phone traffic.


The Integrated Threat Analysis Group (ITAG) gathered and evaluated intelligence for the Special Olympics. While ITAG personnel served as members of the security management committee, the ITAG functioned with a greater degree of autonomy. The ITAG collected, analyzed, and disseminated intelligence information related to terrorism, public disorder, and criminal activity that may have threatened the security or integrity of the games. Because the security operation affected a large number of agencies that came with their own resources and expertise, the security management committee encouraged as many individuals as feasible to participate in the ITAG. Information was gathered and analyzed from many different perspectives, creating a better environment to disseminate information efficiently and answer any follow-up inquiries.

ITAG operations should begin sufficiently in advance of the major event to allow for maximum efficiency. For the Special Olympics, the ITAG was fully-staffed and operating at an off-site location 2 weeks before the opening day to permit the representatives from the various agencies to establish some camaraderie and begin gathering information.

The ITAG operated at an offsite location for two reasons. First, objective information-gathering operations are best located away from the actual decision-making process and potential subjective influences. Second, the Special Olympics ITAG required sophisticated computer networks and other equipment that would have been difficult to set up in a temporary operations center. The needed computer systems were already in place at the off-site location.

The intelligence function represents an important component in the overall security operation because it allows law enforcement to proactively ferret out and address potential problems before they become incidents. To do this effectively on an interagency basis, organizations must choose their representatives carefully. The individual chosen should have a knowledge of intelligence gathering and evaluation and possess the ability to work with others for long hours and under conditions which may become stressful.

Any suspicious activity or other circumstance that may need further assessment should be immediately reported to the ITAG for evaluation. ITAG intelligence reports should include the time of the report, an evaluation of the information's reliability, and any actions recommended. The ITAG also should prepare and transmit a daily intelligence brief containing information on events that will require additional law enforcement attention, visiting dignitaries and their protection schedules, threat analysis, information on international considerations, and general remarks.

All officers involved with security should remain aware of threats directed at dignitaries, officials, and athletes. They should report any unusual loitering, packages, or surveillance activity and watch for persons using false credentials and for any planned or spontaneous demonstrations. They also should pay special attention to high-profile targets, such as national landmarks, transportation systems, government buildings, and facilities housing hazardous waste.


A major event such as the Special Olympics brings a variety of new challenges for all law enforcement personnel involved in the security operation. In order to help meet these challenges, each officer should receive a handbook to use as an easy reference. The Special Olympics handbook was 105 pages and designed to fit in a pants pocket. The handbook should contain specific sections that are germane to the event. An introductory section should include a brief description of the event, the most popular attractions, and the security management committee's mission statement. It also should contain information about the agencies involved and how the security planning took place. Any special information about event participants also belongs in this section. The mission statement should briefly and clearly state why the security management committee exists.

The next section of the handbook should contain material on the overall event's organization and command structure. This is especially important for multijurisdictional events where functional responsibilities easily can blur. An organization table, including a list of command centers, their staffs, and phone numbers, should be included in this section.

Possibly the most important section of the handbook deals with security operations. This part should contain guidelines detailing how to handle specific incidents. The number and type of incidents included in the handbook and the guidelines for dealing with them will vary according to several factors, including the nature of the event and the jurisdictions handling it. The final section should provide necessary support information, such as a list of participating nations, parking and bus information, daily schedules of competition and special events, and a directory of security personnel.

The handbook must balance the need for providing information on a wide range of incidents with the need to present the information in a clear and concise format. When developing the handbook, the security management committee should make every effort to maximize input from each participating agency. While the security management committee may be responsible for gathering handbook information, all participating agencies should offer ideas concerning specific situations. Differing ideas about how to handle an incident must be debated and agreed upon during the writing process. Guidelines that have not been agreed to or have been discarded can breed confusion, reduce coordination, and result in serious managerial and legal problems.

Handbook distribution should take place 2 to 3 weeks before an event begins to allow adequate time for review. In many cases, handbook information may represent significant departures from many individuals' current methods. The amount of advance time, however, must be balanced against the likelihood of last minute changes, resulting in incorrect or incomplete information.


Security management for a major, multijurisdictional event involves addressing a myriad of issues, many of which the security manager will encounter for the first time. Interagency coordination remains paramount for any large-scale security operation, and it is the security manager's role to ensure that the responsibilities of each participating agency are clearly defined. Strong commitment to proper planning and careful coordination of resources can make managing security at a major event one of the most satisfying experiences in a law enforcement career.


1 S. Certo, Modern Management (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997), 136.

2 Ibid., 134.

3 J. Schermerhorn, Jr., J. Hunt, and R. Osborn, Managing Organizational Behavior (New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1994), 310.

4 Ibid., 310.

5 Supra note 1,228.

6 Ibid.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Sherwood, Charles W.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Aug 1, 1998
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