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Brawl at Arrowhead Stadium puts spotlight on fan safety at NFL venues

Glenn E. Rice On Dec 19, 2016
Source: McClatchy

Dec. 17–The cellphone video of a brawl Dec. 8 at Arrowhead Stadium had everything: Chiefs fans and Raiders fans, swearing and shoving, punches flying and bodies cascading down several rows of seats.

It all ended when several Kansas City police officers came into the frame.

The video quickly went viral and became a hot topic on sports websites and radio talk shows. It also reignited ongoing concerns about fan safety at NFL stadiums.

An analysis by the Washington Post in October showed a slight uptick in the number of arrests per-game from 2011 to 2015. Last year saw 6.34 arrests per-game league-wide, the Post reported.

San Diego Chargers games led the league, averaging 24.6 arrests. The Seattle Seahawks were on the bottom with 0.8 of an arrest per game.

The Chiefs came in at No. 18, in the middle of the league, with 1.8 arrests per game, according to the Post.

The number of arrests don’t necessarily indicate a stadium is more or less violent or dangerous, the newspaper said. Its research found that some teams with the highest numbers have zero-tolerance policies.

This season, Kansas City police say they have arrested 16 persons during six home games, an average of 2.7 arrests per game. The arrests included ones for disorderly conduct, non-aggravated assaults, thefts from vehicles and trespassing.

The biggest day was Nov. 6, when five persons were taken into custody as the Chiefs defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars.

About 200 Kansas City police officers, both uniformed and plainclothes, patrol the stadium and parking lots at each game. Sometimes police will don the jerseys of opposing teams.

That force is supplemented by Jackson County deputies, private security guards, federal agents and other law enforcement officers.

With an average home-game attendance of more than 75,000, the number of fans packed into Arrowhead Stadium would be comparable to a large city in Missouri, said Major Tye Grant, who oversees off-duty Kansas City police officers working at home games.

“What we respond to out there and with that many people, it is probably well below the average of a normal city of that size during that time frame,” Grant said. “Find another city of that size, that has that many law enforcement officers working at any given time. Then add hundreds of private security — that has to be one of the safest places in the nation.”

Security for every home game is well planned, Grant said, and evaluations are done afterward to determine what worked and where improvements could be made.

“I approach each game from a security standpoint as if it was the Super Bowl,” Grant said. “So there’s not a whole lot that has to change from one game to the other because we approach them as a major event.”

Grant said police made no arrests during the Chiefs-Raiders fistfight. The officers’ first priority was to break up the fight to ensure that fans not involved were not injured.

“After I make sure everybody is safe and if there is an opportunity to arrest somebody, then that is what we will do,” Grant said.

In addition to a highly visible security presence at Arrowhead, the team educates fans with messages throughout the stadium promoting a code of conduct and encouraging fans to report incidents before they escalate.

The team asks fans to report problems using an anonymous text line. Fans can give their section number and the issue they want security staff to address.

The team also trains its guest-services staff to find ways to interact more with fans before problems arise. The NFL has sent evaluators to home games to review stadium security measures. One was present during the Raiders game.

Unruly fans are sometimes taken to a stadium-security office that has a holding room. They are kept there until a police wagon can take them to one of the city’s patrol stations.

“If we arrest somebody, or if somebody insists on being arrested for something and their actions make it necessary to arrest them, then that is something that is no different than if we were standing anywhere else in the city,” Grant said. “We handle it as appropriately as possible.”

Copyright 2016 – The Kansas City Star

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