Coordinator: 20 Federal Agencies Working to Make This Parade One of the Best, One of the Safest

No active terrorists threats noted for Pasadena on New Year’s Day, say local police and Homeland Security

Published : Friday, December 29, 2017 | 6:55 AM

Federal Coordinator for the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade, Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Joseph Macias said Thursday that approximately 20 federal agencies are supporting the Pasadena Police Department in efforts to “make this parade one of the best and one of the safest.”

Both Macias and Pasadena Chief of Police Phillip Sanchez have emphasized to reporters that “there are no active terrorist threats to Pasadena.”

The Pasadena Police Department is in charge of coordinating all law enforcement efforts for the parade and Rose Bowl, according to Lori K. Haley, acting Western Region Communications Director and spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Department of Homeland Security, through the Federal Coordinator, backs up local authorities by pulling in federal assistance for capability shortfalls and law enforcement assistance, Haley added.

On a national level, Department of Homeland Security officials are cautious but optimistic.

“We always want to look forward and see what we could do better,” explained Macias.

This year, approximately 300 Homeland Security personnel will be directly supporting the Pasadena Police Department, according to Haley.

“We build from what we’ve seen in the past and what we’ve seen this past year,” Macias continued. “Things like the tragedies in Paris and what happened in Las Vegas. So what we need to do now is look forward and try to mitigate those types of events.”

As Macias noted, the Tournament of Roses parade route is over five and a half miles long.

“We’ve implemented overview cameras over the last few years, so that we have eyes on all of the key components within the parade,” he said.

Pasadena police also use license plate readers to identify vehicles moving in and out of the location.

Macias explained that Homeland Security works closely with the FBI to track and examine “all types of intel that are coming up for the parade and for the Rose Bowl.”

Like Police Chief Sanchez, Macias also emphasized that there are “no threats, no credible threats, that we have seen or that we have identified.”

The Customs and Border Protection service is providing X-ray scanners to assist DHS and police personnel in examining suspicious vehicles. The Transportation Security Administration, Secret Service and Coast Guard are also providing bomb-sniffing dogs throughout the parade, said Macias.

Macias emphasized, however, that the most important aspect of New Years’ Day security is the collaboration and coordination between Pasadena Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Pasadena Fire Department and all the other agencies involved.

The partner agencies began their planning back in September, said Macias, who added, “When you see it (the collaboration), it’s almost kind of like this feel-good story where you can actually realize that you are in something that’s bigger than yourself. And I’m telling you, it’s an honor. It really is.”

While confidence is strong, some security experts are still very cautious.

“For obvious reasons, even with increased security over the last 15 years, we still see that people who want to do harm are able to,” Washington, D.C.-based national security expert Dr. David McWhorter told Pasadena Now recently.

“It’s always easier to play offense than defense,” McWhorter said, explaining further that there are concerns about shooters and IEDs in backpacks and vehicles getting through into crowds.

“Defense is always harder, and so you’ve got to make sure you’ve got everything covered,” he said.

McWhorter, whose company, Homeland Security Consulting Group, works with both government agencies and private companies, said, “We need to look at what vulnerability exists, what risks there are, and do our best without going bankrupt, to protect everybody.”

Offering some overall event day advice, McWhorter said, “Stay vigilant and just be aware of your surroundings. It’s very difficult to be alert 24/7 but when you do go to things that are public venues or large venues, make sure you know which way you can go if you need to move quickly in one way or the other. Look at where you might have some natural environmental defenses. Don’t stand out in the middle of a field if you think there’s an issue there.”

Security expert Charles Peck, President of CastCorps International, a San Diego private security company, echoed McWhorter’s words regarding security at large events, and added, “I think that there’s a heightened risk for attacks by either lone-wolf individuals or organized radical groups. And I think that it’s law enforcement’s responsibility to do everything they can to make these venues as safe as possible.”

Peck, who was part of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics security team, also noted the importance of local and national law enforcement agencies working together.

Recalled Peck, “We had every law enforcement agency—federal, state, and local—all band together under one agency director. So, this is common to have law enforcement work together because no one agency has adequate resources to secure the event like the Rose Parade or the Rose Bowl. So it has to be a coordinated effort.”

Neither McWhorter nor Peck is optimistic that the threat of terrorist attacks will go away soon.

As McWhorter concluded, “It’s never going to go away, you look at the past 5,000 years of history and there’s always been something like this going on. So there’s always going to be threats. There’s nothing you can do about that, but just hope you can get the intel at the right time and have the right resources in place and stay alert.”

But Macias remains confident about the work they’ve done, and the readiness of every security agency involved.

“This is a great event.” Macias said. “Our role as law enforcement, along with the Sheriff’s Department, the Pasadena PD, the Fire Department, is to make sure that all the families here just come and enjoy this Tournament of Roses Parade every year, and that’s what we’re here to do.

Macias concluded, “We all focus on one thing and that is the safety of the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Rose Bowl.”