As a result of the Boston Marathon bombing, Oklahoma City area law enforcement was forced to put together an expanded security plan in just 13 days for last year’s Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
This year, while authorities say the threat level isn’t as high, security at the April 27 marathon will remain extensive.
“Once the Boston Marathon incident occurred, that changed the way we are going to provide security for any future marathon here in Oklahoma City,” said Oklahoma City Police Department Major Steve McCool. “I’m not sure that anyone ever felt like a marathon would or could be a target. After the Boston Marathon incident, obviously that changed our way of thinking.”
The Oklahoma City Police Department, Oklahoma City Fire Department, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, and Oklahoma City Public Works Office will all be involved in a security plan enforced by more than 250 law enforcement personnel.
“It’s not just the police department, it’s a collaborative effort from a lot of different agencies to be able to put together an extra layer of security for the marathon,” McCool said. “It wouldn’t be possible without so many agencies willing to lend some help.”
The extra level of security includes police detectives monitoring social media sites, a bomb squad doing sweeps before the marathon even starts, and a uniformed officer at every water stop and every relay station.
“Our security plans have evolved just like our race,” said Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum security director Leon Gillum. “It started with a few thousand people and has grown up to about 27,000 this year, so the security plan evolved along with it. We’ve got the same plan in place that we’ve always had, but now we have a security overlay that we’ve developed as a result of what happened in Boston.”
Gillum also stresses spectators can play a significant role in helping keep the marathon safe.
“The guideline that everyone in homeland security uses is ‘see something say something,’” Gillum said. “Like last year, we’re going to have an abundance of uniformed officers out there for the runners and the spectators, so if they see something they have someone to say something to so we can take action on that incident.”
With the threat level down, funding for the expanded security was initially a concern this year.
“Last year, the Oklahoma Department of Homeland Security funded the bulk of the security overlay we instituted,” Gillum said. “This year, the Oklahoma City Police Department and some of the other departments are funding that extra level of security themselves out of respect and out of safety and security concerns for our race and our community.”
For McCool and the OCPD, the respect and concern comes from Oklahoma City’s own bombing experience.
“Because of our response to the bombing in 1995, we have always been very close to everything that goes on with the Memorial and the staff there,” McCool said. “They could’ve easily gone out and tried to hire private security, or a level of security they thought would get by when they planned the very first marathon. But because of the connection with the bombing and the police department they reached out to us from the beginning.
“It does mean a lot to our officers to basically be able to say, ‘We’re not going to let it happen here with our marathon.’”