Inside 1265: Doug Collins keeps Lambeau safe
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in a series of profiles about the leadership of the Green Bay Packers and how business is managed at 1265 Lombardi Ave.
GREEN BAY - Few jobs require expertise in terrorism, drunks and the behavior of NFL football players.
For Doug Collins, director of security for the Green Bay Packers, it's a day at the office. He is responsible for day-to-day activities at Lambeau Field, the big events, such as football games and concerts, and for educating players on how to behave like professional athletes, and informing/protecting the organization if they don't.
"It's not police work in the traditional sense, but there is a lot of police work that goes into your daily job ... a lot of it is major event security and everything we have to do with that," he said.
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Terrorism or random violent acts are what make security directors anxious, but it's prosaic responsibilities, such as hundreds of background checks on potential draft choices, planning and day-to-day stadium functions, that take up most of Collins' time.
"Everybody thinks about something catastrophic happening on event day, but you see school shootings happen every day. You see stuff happen in the mall every day. You see stuff happen consistently," Collins said.
Events such as Orlando and Paris are the nightmare scenarios.
"I wouldn't say you stay up late at night, but you do think about it a lot," Collins said. "It's definitely at the forefront as you're planning anything."
Green Bay is the smallest market in professional sports, but it's well known.
"If you think the weakest link is the smallest city, and Lambeau Field is an iconic venue, for someone to do harm here, it would put a statement out, just like the Boston Marathon," he said. "Some of the most iconic events are the ones that have to be aware the most."
Lambeau Field is "pretty hardened" on event days, but Collins has to focus on the other 350-plus days of the year as well.
"Anybody can walk through the front door, and identifying those and hopefully doing enough training with staff so they know how to respond ... that's what I worry about the most," he said. "I'll just say we're prepared to react, no matter what it is."
Every year, usually in June or July, they shut down one of the gates and train on scenarios put together with the FBI. They invite the Brewers and the Bucks security people and compared notes.
"We said if you can bring anything to the table that you guys do that could help us, great," he said. "This isn't a secret. This is all about being better prepared."
In May, Lambeau Field was the sixth professional sports stadium to receive a Department of Homeland Security designation and certification rating that protects it from lawsuits in the event of a terrorist attack. What that means is the team promises to constantly monitor and update security protocols under the the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act.
The Packers have security officers but rely on local law enforcement — such as Green Bay Police, Ashwaubenon Public Safety, Brown County Sheriff's Office and State Police — for many of their security needs during large events.
"We couldn't do it without them, I'll tell you that," Collins said. "Obviously, we aren't New York City with 20,000 policeman."
When he was a Green Bay police officer, Collins worked off-duty for then-security director Jerry Parins. He joined the team full time in 2001 as the team increased its security staff to deal with the stadium being open year-round after the 2003 renovation.
Packers security is busiest during football games. Police arrested 69 people and ejected 228 in 10 games last season. The year before they made 75 arrests and 248 ejections in 11 games. And it 2012, the year before the south end zone addition was complete, there were 98 arrests and 373 ejections, but that includes a playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings that was one of the worst-behaved crowds in memory. That game alone had 21 arrests and 91 ejections, and alcohol sales were halted in the third quarter.
"We said to ourselves, if we can keep the (arrest/ejection) numbers the same (after adding 8,000 seats), we've actually done better," he said.
As deterrent, ejections work as well as arrests, he said.
"If we can eject somebody early on in the process of their behavior, it makes the situation that much better for all the fans around that person," he said. "I'd rather someone get ejected before they get arrested."
Traffic control is an issue security directors in larger cities don't often address.
"Those types of things are kind of seamless when you go to big cities," he said. "I think we get our folks out much quicker than almost any NFL city. Just having the ability to work with the county and the city to turn streets into one-way streets that aren't one-way streets normally really helps us."
The Packers mentor players to help them avoid trouble, and Collins is the point man when they don't take that advice. Problems happen mostly in the off season, when players have less to keep them occupied.
The Packers consider character when choosing players but recognize backgrounds vary.
"We go through quite a few things. Each kid grew up in a different environment. There's players who came from a tough background," he said. "Maybe the trust isn't quite there for law enforcement. You take the time to sit down and you understand their family and spouse or girlfriend and what they're doing in town and help them out."
When they do get in trouble, Collins' job is to get information more than investigate. It's his job to help the team understand and evaluate what happened. He can use security contacts around the league to get the story.
"I would say you want to help the person out, whether he's a player or not, in whatever situation, but obviously the organization comes first," Collins said.
The goal is for fans and visitors to notice as little as possible the things being done to make their visit safe.
"That's the No. 1 goal, that they just have a great time and didn't realize anything happened," Collins said.
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Doug Collins quotes:
» On threats: "It's happened and I'll just say we're prepared to react, no matter what it is. You have to vet through that stuff and say what's real and what's not. You can't just blow it off, like this guy's nothing, because you never know which one is."
» On event security: "A lot of it has to do with how you layer your security and how that protection is done. If you have people in different spaces, hopefully you're detecting that well before they get to the gate based on things you do."
» On metal detectors at Lambeau gates: "It's a big process, it's an expensive process, it's a labor intensive process, but I think it gets us to a point we're very safe."