Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 23 No. 13
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

From the roof to perimeter

Counterterrorism / Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins have taken aggressive measures for protecting their facility against potential terrorist attacks. Three years before October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, the NFL team quietly put sniper teams on the roof of Hard Rock Stadium to help spot the bad guys from a greater distance.

It’s part of the club’s counterterrorism strategy developed by Joe Cicini, the Dolphins’ senior director of security. Cicini spent 23 years with the FBI before coming to the Dolphins in 2014. He was among Tom Garfinkel’s first hires after Garfinkel was named team president and CEO in 2013.

“We don’t look at event security as a cost center,” Garfinkel said. “I take everyone’s safety at our building as a personal responsibility.”

Apart from NFL games, Hard Rock Stadium books concerts and international soccer matches, among other events. Over the next four years, the facility plays host to the 2020 Super Bowl and the 2021 College Football Playoff title game.

To make the 30-year-old stadium a tougher target for terrorists, those sniper teams practice shooting at metal targets outside of the facility on non-event days, Cicini said.

On game days, the sniper teams overhead are supported by tactical officers on the ground armed with automatic weapons. Both squads are largely hidden from view, but if there’s an active shooter on-site, their response time would be swift, Garfinkel said.

In addition, the Dolphins use more than 25 bomb-sniffing dogs to patrol the secured perimeter and the parking lots because they feel the threats loom larger outside of the security zone surrounding the stadium. Cicini said the canine presence makes people feel safe.

The Dolphins added more than 100 metal detectors at all gate entrances as part of the stadium’s $500 million renovation completed this year. Plus, they increased to 350 the number of uniformed police officers on-site for game days, which is among the most in the NFL, according to Garfinkel.

“They serve as visual deterrents and our incident rate went down when we strategically placed them in the right locations, including the parking lots,” he said.

The stadium’s surveillance camera system covers every one of the stadium’s 65,000 seats. The Dolphins use Avigilon’s video management software, which features some of the best analytics tools in the industry, Cicini said.

After the 2017 season, work starts on the construction of two pedestrian bridges and tunnels to help reduce vehicular traffic congestion. It’s also viewed as a security measure in response to some recent terrorist attacks overseas using vehicles to strike pedestrians, Cicini said.