Fox59 News probe discovers gaps in Super Bowl XLVI After Action Report
The day after Super Bowl XLVI left Indianapolis in February of 2012, the National Football League was full of praise for the job the host city did in presenting the sport’s premier game to the world.
“According to the NFL, Super Bowl XLVI was by all accounts one of the most successful in history.”
That quote is included in the Division of Homeland Security Super Bowl XLVI After Action Report, which was written to assess the performance of Indianapolis’ Departmentof Public Safety over the course of 12 days in late January and early February of last year.
Former Public Safety Director Frank Straub told Fox59 News that the report was completed within weeks of the final gun signaling the end of the game at Lucas Oil Stadium. It wasn’t.
According to Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons, the report was finally completed at the start of this year though it was not provided to Fox59 News, after nearly 18 months of inquiry, until July 5.
Public Safety Director Troy Riggs, who replaced Straub in late 2012, did not receive his copy of the report until late April after pressure brought by Fox59 News.
The report provides a well deserved pat on the back for Marion County’s first responders who provided unprecedented safety for the more than one million visitors to downtown Indianapolis during the Super Bowl Celebration.
But a Fox59 News investigation that began during the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVI revealed several gaps in the city’s After Action Report that will need to be addressed as Indianapolis considers a bid to hold Super Bowl LII in 2018.
As the 9/11 tragedy proved when New York City firefighters and police officers died because of their inability to communicate with one another, radio transmissions are key in maintaining a safe environment in a crowded urban setting.
More than a week before the 46th Super Bowl, Indianapolis and its provider, Motorola, experienced radio outages that hampered the ability of IMPD officers to stay in touch.
“The program had little time for deployment,” reads the After Action Report. “Interoperable communications is always the first to fail in a large scale incident.”
Such failures were confirmed in an email to Fox59 News from an IMPD spokeswoman on Jan. 28, 2012.
“We are having interference and delays when the officers are keying up their radios,” read the response.
Those problems are not cited in the After Action Report.
“We had times with the radio system when you could tell it was going in and out,” said Coons.
The chief said that the city was so frustrated with Motorola’s system that it considered calling the news media to pressure the company’s Chicago-based engineers to arrive in Indianapolis to solve the problems.
“It was something we felt was an emergency situation,” said Coons after he was questioned about the radio failures omission from the After Action Report, “and we’re going to reevaluate that anyway. We have to.”
Coons said Motorola engineers rebooted the system to compensate for the influx of outside agencies and media sources that were also competing for radio frequencies.
One week before the Super Bowl, Mayor Greg Ballard and then-Public Safety Director Straub presided over the unveiling of the video monitoring system at the Regional Operations Center on the city’s east side. The ROC, enclosed in the shell of the dilapidated former Eastgate Consumer Mall, was over budget, behind schedule and not fully operational for the Super Bowl as Straub had often promised. At a news conference, the video monitoring system was touted as state of the art and essential for law enforcement officers to view feeds from dozens of surveillance cameras mounted throughout the city during the Super Bowl Celebration.
On Jan. 28, the same day that IMPD officers could not speak to one another on their radios and the Super Bowl Village welcomed its first guests downtown, the wall of dozens of televsion screens went dark inside the ROC.
“There are some issues with the wall board but they are working on it,” read an email sent to Fox59 News by an IMPD spokeswoman.
That video wall failure, which was corrected within two hours, is not noted in the After Action Report.
Coons said FBI agents, who were monitoring the surveillance feeds at the ROC, watched downtown images on laptop computers.
“One of the reasons we didn’t have it in (the report) is the fact that we really didn’t know all of what happened.”
On Friday, Feb. 3, two nights before the Super Bowl, Indianapolis’ party succeeded beyond all expectations as record crowds arrived downtown to visit the NFL Experience at the Indiana Convention Center, dine at bars and restaurants and attend a concert by the band LMFAO at the stage on the east end of Georgia Street near Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
The crowd filled the Village several blocks back to Illinois Street.
The report refers to the incident as a “perfect storm” of downtown congestion, poor stage location and overcrowding. And there weren’t enough police on hand.
“Additional law enforcement was proposed to augment current staffing,” reads the report. “However this was not possible due to diminished IMPD personnel assigned to other areas of the city.
“Fire and EMS resources started to become overwhelmed.”
In fact, canceling days off and packing downtown Indianapolis with police officers for 12 days leading up to the Super Bowl left other parts of the city undermanned in the weeks before and after the game.
This citywide manpower crunch for public safety is also not mentioned in the After Action Report.
“I’m not sure why it doesn’t reflect that from the police side,” said Coons.
In an era of “See something, say something,” as public safety officials depend on the public, armed with cell phones, to be additional eyes and ears at major events, the failure of the private cell phone system that night as the band LMFAO came onstage came as a surprise to Coons and his staff.
As fans snapped photos of the band on stage and attempted to text those photos to friends, phone and data systems shut down.
“We’re going to have to note it now that you told us there was an issue that night,” said Coons.
Inadequate barrier systems were erected to handle the overflow crowds that night, the report claims.
Those crowds danced on and severely damaged an IMPD patrol car parked at Maryland and Pennsylvania Streets. Damage to that vehicle is not noted in the report.
“We probably do need to talk about that and probably add that into this report,” said Coons.
While Riggs admits he did not receive his copy of the summary until late April, Mayor Ballard told Fox59 News he does not know when his office received its After Action Report.
“I’m not going to sit down and read the entire report,” said Ballard, “but I’ve been briefed on what has gone before and what little bit they’re planning in the future.”
The 28-page summary highlights information found in hundreds of pages of briefing books, operational plans and a playbook in Coons’ office.
Coons admits that the final report may not be final now that several glaring omissions have been discovered.
“We’re going to have to create an addendum or add-on to this report that adds that information.”
Public safety costs totalled a little more than $4 million for the Super Bowl Celebration. The Capitol Improvement Board reimbursed the city for most of those costs.
This summer, the Super Bowl Host Committee is drawing up plans, with its partner the city, to submit a bid to the NFL to host Super Bowl LII in 2018. NFL owners will make that decision next May.