December’s SSI cover for the annual Technology Issue is an exclusive profile of the new video surveillance upgrade the San Francisco 49ers have installed at their Candlestick Park home. For that story, 49ers Vice President of Stadium Operations and Security Jim Mercurio was interviewed extensively.
Now in his 19th year with the club and enjoying the Niners’ renaissance as one of the NFL’s top teams, Mercurio discussed a number of topics in addition to specifics about a surveillance upgrade that followed highly publicized shootings and other violence during a preseason game last summer. Here, he addresses the aftermath of those incidents as well as the NFL’s approach to securing America’s leading professional sports league.
How aware do you make fans of your enhanced security and safety they hopefully will experience, particularly in the aftermath last summer’s shootings when some may have felt unsettled?
Jim Mercurio: Well, there are signs everywhere that say, “Video monitoring on premise.” Do I actively go out and promote that we’ve got this new surveillance system? We’ve promoted it from the standpoint that we are happy about it and letting people know. I think from that standpoint of making people feel comfortable about being safe at Candlestick at games, they’re going to get that from the physical presence more so than anything. In testimony to that was the amount of kids and families that came out to our games, so I think people feel pretty safe about coming and we’re pretty proud about that.
An incident like what happened here or at any stadium is something you always try to prevent and in some cases it’s pretty difficult to. It’s how you respond and I think our team responded pretty well. Our ownership, the chief of police and the mayor, everybody has been supportive here in our never-ending quest to provide safety and security for our friends, families and everyone who attends our games. I think sometimes we have to make sure people recognize there is a way to behave properly, including when you come to an event. And you’re either going to learn how to behave, or we’re going to help you. We prefer that we don’t have to help you and that everybody enjoys themselves.
We’re going to do everything in our power, whether it’s a security camera system, additional police officers or different types of personnel, until we think we’ve got the right model. And then we’re going to change it again when the circumstances suggest we should.
Are there specific requirements or guidelines that you have to adhere to regarding the 49ers, Candlestick or even the NFL in terms of minimal security or standard security measures in for people and systems?
Mercurio: I wouldn’t say there is a minimum or a maximum per se, but there is a document that we live and operate by and it’s called the NFL’s Best Practices for Security. That is kind of a living, breathing document that was born shortly after 9/11. So there are certain procedures, techniques and recommendations that are spelled out for virtually every aspect of game-day operations as it relates to security. How and what certain things we should guide ourselves by and principles we should look to; so that’s probably the biggest guideline. Just recently, a change has been made — at our last game, in fact — where we’ve gone from solely pat-down to wanding technology as an example of security enhancements that the NFL and security clubs have made for game-day security. And there has been a number of things.
Is there a good deal of communication between those responsible for security for the different teams? Is it a communal environment?
Mercurio: It’s very collaborative. Each year, we have a two- to three-day seminar where all member clubs in the NFL get together to talk about a plethora of things like ideas, processes and techniques that have worked for everybody. It allows sharing each other’s woes and challenges, but also some of the successes. The 49ers have been supportive of that process for years. In fact, we were a part of helping develop the early stages of some of the best practices, as have several, if not all, member clubs in that document.
We get some great leadership from Jeff Miller, who is now the chief security officer for the NFL, and I have many colleagues throughout the league who I’ve developed great relationships with over the years. So we all tap into each other’s resources and certainly not just the NFL, but other member clubs. We might reach out to other leagues and what they’re experiencing. For instance, when we were over in London, we were able to meet with different people from Wembley and look at what they’ve done with soccer. And even closer to home, relationships that we’ve got with the San Jose Sharks or the San Francisco Giants or the Warriors. We’re always in constant communication of each other. In fact, I just got a call from the Oakland Raiders the other day saying, “Hey, I understand that you’re going to the wand. Can you give me some insight on how long it took to process people and any suggestions you might be able to give us to learn from?” So it’s not a competitive thing like you would see from the players on the football field.
We’re all in this to make the entire environment, whether it’s from my game or somebody else’s, as great as it can be and if we can help each other, we do.