Local police departments brace for Final Four

Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have teamed up to oversee security for event.

A Minneapolis Police officer patrols Dinkytown on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.

Jack Rodgers

A Minneapolis Police officer patrols Dinkytown on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.

Mohamed Ibrahim

As teams continue to make their way through the NCAA Tournament, Minneapolis is preparing for the madness that comes with hosting the Final Four.

The Minneapolis Police Department has teamed up with the University of Minnesota Police Department and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to oversee security for the Final Four games from April 5 to April 8 and the accompanying events. Although the event is smaller and more concentrated than Super Bowl LII and its festivities, MPD is taking similar steps to ensure the safety of teams, fans and participants as the effort’s lead agency.

Security measures will include additional surveillance cameras and patrols downtown. Law enforcement agencies will convene in the Multi Agency Command Center, a security command center hosted by MPD. MPD also used the MACC for Super Bowl security. 

“Anyone who has operational assets that are in the vicinity of the Final Four and the events, they’re going to be sitting in the MACC so that we’re all in touch with each other,” said UMPD Lt. Erik Swanson. “Everyone who’s got a dog in the fight, as it were, we’re stationed [there].”

UMPD officers will also assist with security for teams using University of Minnesota practice facilities, Swanson said. Although U.S. Bank Stadium will host most practices, Williams Arena, Maturi Pavilion and the Cunningham Basketball Performance Center are also available for teams to practice away from the media.

Minneapolis was chosen to host the final games of the college basketball tournament in November 2014 after a City presentation to the NCAA by the Minnesota Final Four Bid Committee. More than a year before the event, the NCAA coordinates with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to rehearse security measures. 

“Over the years, we have implemented tighter security measures, such as the clear bag requirement for our games and fan events and increased law enforcement presence to help increase fan safety at the Final Four,” said NCAA Managing Director for External Affairs Erik Christianson in an email to the Minnesota Daily. 

Soon after preparations for the tournament and its accompanying festivities began, MPD, fire department and emergency services officials traveled to 2018 Final Four host city San Antonio. The officials met with the San Antonio Police Department to get an idea of what to expect and what measures were effective, said MPD Lt. Jon Kingsbury, deputy incident commander for the Final Four.

“They’re a much larger department and the way their downtown is set up is a little different as far as traffic problems or traffic issues, venue locations [and] things like that, but we were able to take what worked for them and apply it to our situation here in the city,” Kingsbury said.

To further assist in security efforts, MPD and the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab will help train more than 2,000 event volunteers. 

The Final Four’s festivities will be concentrated downtown and last less than a week, compared to the 10 days of Super Bowl events spread out across the Twin Cities last year. The shorter time span and smaller geographical area will be the biggest changes for MPD, Kingsbury said.

“We’re not able to have the luxury of giving a lot of days off to the cops or anything like that,” Kingsbury said. “It’s all hands on deck, so it’s really impactful on the police department for those five or six days.”