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One-on-one: Jeff Miller, chief security officer, NFL

NFL’s chief security officer, Jeff Miller, talks about the impact of the Boston Marathon bombings on NFL stadia security and plans for the 2014 Super Bowl

 

What’s the NFL’s approach to security?
Every year after the Super Bowl we examine our policies and practices, looking at how to improve and streamline them. We have a set of best practices for stadia security developed with the Department of Homeland Security and this year we’ve introduced a new screening policy.

Why the policy change?
The Boston Marathon bombings happened as we were reviewing our existing policies, days before the NFL draft. What is evident is that individuals and groups who want to do harm will try to seek out mass gatherings of people and dense crowds, so we wanted to increase the safety for our fans in and around stadia gates.

What impact does the policy have on fans?
We now search and screen every fan in order to create a safe environment. We listened when they told us they want to get into the stadium more quickly and this new policy limits the number as well as the types of bag, so the screening process is faster and easier. We still allow them to bring some items in but we recommend they don’t bring a bag at all. If they do, we ask items to be in a transparent vessel so we can see the contents clearly. We also now have secondary perimeters where we make sure fans are only carrying permitted bags.

How has the NFL tackled evolving security issues over the past decade?
We continue to fine-tune our set of best practices, working closely with the FBI, Homeland Security and other parties to communicate and discuss current trends on the terror front, and over the years we’ve made a number of changes. For instance, we used to do a lot of pat-downs of fans as they entered the stadium, the focus being on suicide vests. Then, at all 31 stadia we used handheld or walk-through screenings. We always have to be on the lookout for changes and challenges in the environment, and be proactive ahead of potential issues.

Will the new policy create problems?
We hope not. Effective security requires us to be continuously vigilant. We have taken steps to mitigate problems by communicating with fans early, using the NFL networks and media outlets. We want to ensure fans know what to expect before they arrive at the stadium, so we have launched a website and mailed season ticket holders directly. We’re also working with secondary ticket and public transit partners. Additionally, we are looking at our fan behaviour programme and we’re asking fans to report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. We’re actually very sensitive to the fan experience; we want to create an environment in which people can have a great time.

Does the NFL borrow ideas from other sports and major events?
We pay close attention to what other authorities are doing. The NFL is at London’s Wembley Stadium in September and October. They have great fans in the UK, and we have a really good relationship with the authorities as well as the Metropolitan Police, who identify things that might be helpful to us.

Is there pressure with your role?
I always feel under pressure. We have great partners but, for the NFL, the buck stops with me. That is why we focus on all the main partners working seamlessly together to ensure we address anything that might happen. I always breathe a sigh of relief after the Super Bowl. This next one will be my sixth in total.

What’s the plan for Super Bowl XLVIII?
We’re always involved in the planning process early on, but this time we’ve been more engaged as a result of the scope of it. We are making plans for any potential contingencies we could face. The game will be in New Jersey, in February, so we’ll have transportation and weather challenges, but MetLife Stadium is a really good facility and I feel confident everything will be fine. We just need to have the infrastructure in place to ensure flexibility so we’re able to shift gears if we need to. We’ll continue to use the same template but we’re always looking at new technologies and striving to achieve greater efficiency.

 

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