San Diego Police Department helps secure U.S. Open at Torrey Pines

Tee Up the Security

San Diego Police Department helps secure U.S. Open at Torrey Pines

When the United States Golf Association (USGA) announced that the 2021 US Open was taking place at the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, CA, there was an excitement in and around the city. As city officials began to prepare for the June event, and with COVID restrictions loosening per vaccination, security and crowd management became top of mind.

Consisting of two championship golf courses (North and South) on coastal cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Torrey Pines is the perfect scene for a major golf tournament. Despite their beauty and prestige, however, the course and adjacent land are owned by the city of San Diego. As a result, Torrey Pines is open to public play year-round when not preparing for PGA golf events. The last time Torrey Pines hosted the U.S. Open in 2008, Tiger Woods had an historic comeback to win in extra holes. This year, Spaniard Jon Rahm hoisted the winner's trophy.

One of the operations that is vital to the success of hosting a U.S. Open is security. With vast areas of land, huge crowds, high-profile players and expensive equipment protecting the players, staff and patrons become essential. The tournament would be the largest post-COVID event in the San Diego-area, and the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) was tasked with keeping the public safe. SDPD deployed and collaborated with San Diego's Critical Management Team, Airborne Law Enforcement Division (ABLE) and Special Events Team to create a safety-first, non-intrusive strategy to monitor the event and prevent any would-be incidents.

The Selection Process
In order for SDPD to properly secure the venue and ensure four-days of public safety, it had to do its research on technology. The solution started with SDPD selecting Airship’s Enterprise Management System (EMS) as its video and sensor management platform. EMS has been used for years in the state and local law enforcement space, and offers all the proper integrations necessary for the system to work seamlessly, even in remote areas.

“We needed a reliable system that could work in remote locations and provide easy set up and an interface that people not familiar with the system [would] feel comfortable working with," said the San Diego Citical Incident Management Unit leader.

In addition, Airship has long been the go-to-solution for high-profile remote setups covering political debates/inaugurations, music festivals and high-profile football games. The ability to manage cameras, sensors, analytics and even live video from mobile phones from a single, intuitive user interface met the needs of not only SDPD, but the Critical Management Team, Special Events Team and the ABLE Team.

“The ability to survey the situation through our agents on the ground is the definition of a force multiplier. Depending on the permission levels, we were able to see the cameras live, control PTZ [pan-tilt-zoom] and send any necessary video back to the MCV," said SDPD Command.

VMS & Mesh Network Vital
With the video and various sensor technologies managed on the backend, SDPD and the different groups involved advocated for using radio systems from technology partner Silvus Technologies. When positioned on camera trailers, the Silvus radios created a wireless mesh network that fed seamless video back to the SDPD Joint Operations Center (JOC), as well as the Mobile Command Van (MCV).

This mesh network solution has proven itself in outdoor areas where unreliable Wi-Fi can be a factor. The constant uptime allowed SDPD to have real-time situational awareness over the entire tournament. Both solution providers worked with the ABLE team to provide reliable connectivity and video back to viewing stations.

Security Technology as a Force Multiplier
The top priority of the SDPD and its partners was to keep everyone safe during the week of the tournament. Monitoring expansive grounds and throngs of people would prove a challenge. The task at hand for San Diego and the PGA Tour of America was not only to run a safe event, but a smooth one, as well.

The design and topology called for cameras in strategic places to monitor large crowds and take preventative measures. Beyond the patrons, players and tournament officials, crowd control around the merchandise tent, as well as the golf manufacturer tour busses with high-value items, was also a high priority.

“Public safety and customer needs come first at Airship," said Paul Allen, president of Airship. "Working side-by-side with our integrator partners to ensure a successful deployment becomes a win-win.”

The topology that allowed for a seamless U.S. Open consisted of five portable surveillance trailers, one unmanned drone and one police helicopter (on standby) all connected by a mesh network and a reliable VMS.

In addition, Airship’s past work with the government has resulted in deep integrations with the FLIR Star Safire thermal/HD camera gimble mounted on the SDPD helicopter. The Star Safire was attached to a Teradek encoder and a Silvus 4480E radio, all of which the Airship EMS solution managed.

“We [Silvus Radio] work with several different agencies that offer a wide variety of tactical challenges," said Jimi Henderson, vice president of sales at Silvus Technologies. "We strive to provide the San Diego Police Department and our partner Airship with a reliable mesh network that frees them up to focus on their mission—in this case safeguarding everyone involved in the US Open."

The Partner Difference
Airship partnered with local network integrator provider AggreGateway, to help deploy the technology needs of the SDPD. AggreGateway already had a strong relationship with the SDPD and was a natural partner.

“They trust us to help design and implement a security solution that will make an event uneventful," said Octavio Navarro, network engineer and founder of AggreGateway. "Understanding where to strategically place surveillance trailers and what combination of technology will work for the different teams is where partnering with Airship has made a huge difference.”

The SDPD and Special Events Team appreciated having this turnkey solution as well.

“We are a resourceful group but [when] managing so many things, it’s great to have subject matter experts help configure, set up user privileges, even help point cameras and PTZs in the spots that make the most sense,” said the Critical Incident Management Unit leader. “Not everyone involved in the securing of Torrey Pines [Golf Course] is an expert on Airship VMS but the interface and controls allow us to get new users up-to-speed immediately which is necessary for an event like this."

Future Plans
While the success of the tournament was worth celebrating, the preparation and wrap-up up of an event of this size is equally important.

“Each year we learn something new about what we can bring back to our day-to-day operational lives with the department," said an SDPD Officer. "We intend to expand on our existing Airship system by adding more cameras and spending wisely with new technology. The success of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines begets more budget freedom which, in turn, turns into more public safety efforts across the entire city. The city's first responders have shown interest in being on the same platform after seeing how easy the interface was to use and how quickly the entire thing can be set up."

By partnering with Airship Industries, Silvus Technologies and AggreGateway, the city of San Diego and the United States Golf Association (USGA) were able to take advantage of proven, advanced technology to provide safety and security.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2021 issue of Security Today.

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