By Elizabeth Brown and Michael Sellers

The city of Santa Clara, California (Julio Fuentes, city manager), opened Levi’s® Stadium in August 2014. With just 142 sworn police officers serving the city at that time, Santa Clara would have one of the smallest law enforcement agencies in the country to protect an NFL stadium. This article explains how the police department was able to hire 136 officers representing 43 jurisdictions since the stadium opened to provide public safety services on event days.

The police department, human resources department, and city attorney’s office created an innovative model for any community that needs to regularly expand the capacity of its police department for large-scale special events. This model met Santa Clara’s goals of providing effective protection to the stadium with no negative impact on the delivery of service to the rest of the community.

In turn, this model has also strengthened relationships between the Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) and federal, state, and local law enforcement jurisdictions.


Planning and Staffing Challenges

Police planning of the 2016 Super Bowl 50 began more than two years ago. Members of the police department attended Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey and Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona to learn from past successes of lead law enforcement agencies. As a result, Santa Clara has been able to develop a comprehensive law enforcement plan involving federal, state, and local partners.

Each workday, Santa Clara’s population swells from 120,000 to more than 150,000 as employees of the city’s 12,000 businesses—many of them high-tech corporate giants—come to work. Due to this 30,000 increase, SCPD is adept at handling the influx on top of its core responsibility to serve and protect its residents. The city is recognized as one of the safest communities of its size in the United States.

It might be thought that 60,000+ people coming into Santa Clara for events at Levi’s Stadium would be a similar situation. That thinking would be wrong. Whether they are San Francisco 49er football fans, rock concert attendees, or participants in an outdoor business convention, that number of excited people arriving at and departing from the same place at the same time can significantly disrupt traffic and cause parking challenges.

It also has the potential to disrupt the quality of life of nearby residents and business operations.


Exploring Options

As soon as voters approved the measure authorizing the creation of the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, a tax-exempt public authority, in June 2010 to build and own the new football stadium, the police department started to develop strategies to allow it to effectively handle construction, then operational, challenges without depleting city resources needed for day-to-day services. Early exploration of options was ramped up in 2012 when the city received funding from the 49ers for a special events unit consisting of one lieutenant and one sergeant.

The unit studied 21 stadium operations across the country and created an operations plan and manual for all events at Levi’s Stadium based on National Football League best practices. The plan and manual cover every contingency—traffic flow, parking lot incidents, ticket scalpers, gate-entry issues, medical emergencies, alcohol-related incidents, disorderly behavior, threat-assessment procedures, and possible theft and vandalism in the stadium or the surrounding neighborhoods.

The plan identified the need for a law enforcement coalition for the stadium that included SCPD; 49ers security team; homeland security partners; contracted security officers; Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department; California Highway Patrol; and neighboring Sunnyvale’s Public Safety Department.

Service agreements were put in place for special resources, including canine, bike patrol, helicopter, and other needs, should they be necessary.

Even with this extensive coalition of expertise and resources, it was clear that major events at the stadium would need more boots on the ground by experienced law enforcement personnel than what off-duty Santa Clara officers could provide.

The original thought was to sign agreements with other municipal police departments to provide law enforcement services at the stadium on an overtime contractual basis. But other jurisdictions were hesitant to take on the increased liability and the potential personnel complaints that could occur with officers wearing their own uniforms and patches at the stadium.

As police chief, I needed an alternative plan to attain additional law enforcement personnel for these special events. Through collaboration and countless hours of discussions between the police department, human resources, and city attorney staff, an idea was born: Hire police officers from other departments on an as-needed basis.

A great deal of research and discussions were held in a timely manner with external subject matter experts and local jurisdictions before the concept of “double badging” could be implemented.


The Solution

Santa Clara devised the solution of creating a new position of special events police officer—that is, sworn officers from other jurisdictions who would be brought on duty as needed wearing Santa Clara uniforms. Funding of these positions, as well as all of the special costs to SCPD or any of the other participating law enforcement agencies, comes from stadium funds, not the city’s general fund.

The requirements for a “double badge” special events officer were strict: 1) currently employed by a California law enforcement agency as a full-time police officer or level 1 reserve officer; 2) peace operations specialized training certificate; 3) completion of field training officer and probation; 4) psychological, medical, and background investigation reviews; and 5) an interview with SCPD’s professional standards unit.

The position would be categorized as “as needed, at will,” but the special events officer would have full police powers in deployment in and around the stadium to provide crowd and traffic control, arrest of offenders, report writing, and general enforcement duties.

Individual applicants for events officer positions had a good many questions and concerns, including these with city responses:

  • What is the length of the shift? Answer: Depending on the event, between eight and 11 hours.
  • Will there be benefits? Answer: No. Officers will receive per diem compensation of $55 per hour in 2014 with the possibility of an increase in future years.
  • What uniform will be worn? Answer: SCPD battle dress uniforms purchased by the special events police officer with the cost reimbursed after the officer worked 10 special events.
  • Who will provide the badge and name tag? Answer: SCPD.
  • Who will provide safety gear, including ballistic vest, duty belt, straight baton, and handgun? Answer: Officers will use their current gear.
  • Who will be responsible for radio communication? Answer: SCPD will issue radios.
  • Will there be training? Answer: Yes, a full day of paid training at the stadium is required so officers can become familiar with the facility, the operations plan, Santa Clara municipal code, and other policies and guidelines.

Other jurisdictions were especially concerned about worker’s compensation and legal defense issues. Detailed agreements had to be worked out so that those jurisdictions would not have financial or legal exposure if they allowed their officers to moonlight as a special events officer for Santa Clara and were put in one of those unfortunate scenarios.

Special liability insurance coverage was purchased and paid for by the stadium authority to cover civil, criminal, and administrative action coverage for the special events police officers.

Officer recruitment began in fall 2013. With herculean effort by the police department’s professional standards unit recruiting officer and HR personnel, Santa Clara hired 95 officers representing 37 different agencies throughout California prior to the first event at the stadium in August 2014.

As noted earlier, that number increased to 136 officers from 43 jurisdictions as of the writing of this article. The city plans to have 150 special events police officers hired and trained prior to Super Bowl 50 in February 2016.


Positive Results

Levi’s Stadium hosted more than 200 events in 2014, ranging from corporate meetings to charity events to large-attendance athletic competitions. Most of them were easily handled by stadium security backed up by regular law enforcement services provided by SCPD.

Since the stadium opened, hosting 35 large-scale events (20,000 to 71,000 attendance, including Wrestle-Mania, international soccer games, NFL games, and concerts) has warranted the use of double-badged special events officers.

There was the exception of one beat area near the stadium that had an increase of police officers, police reserves, and community services officers to handle the Neighborhood Protection Plan. Response times throughout the city remained consistent during large special events at the stadium.

A survey of guests at four special events about their stadium experience included a question on whether they felt safe before, during, and after the event. The results were positive:

  • Sounders vs. Earthquakes Soccer Match, August 2, 2014, the first event held in the stadium (42,575 attendance): 47 percent very satisfied or satisfied; 50 percent neutral; and 3 percent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
  • Friday Night Lights High School Football, October 10–11, 2014 (10,441 attendance on Friday, 9,399 attendance on Saturday): 86 percent very satisfied or satisfied; 11 percent neutral; and 3 percent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
  • Foster Farms Bowl, December 30, 2014 (27,025 attendance): 92 percent very satisfied or satisfied; 7 percent neutral; and 1 percent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.


Santa Clara’s innovative double- badging program can serve as a model for any community that needs to regularly expand the capacity of its police department for large special events. It met Santa Clara’s goals of providing effective protection to Levi’s stadium, with no negative impact on the delivery of service to the rest of the community. It would not have been possible, however, without the collaboration of the three city departments.



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