Stewart Stogel is a veteran print/broadcast journalist whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, the Miami Herald, Washington Times, ABC News and NBC News. Major stories broken include the death of legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq (Operation Desert Storm, 1991), and the failure of the U.S./UK military to find WMD in Iraq (March 2003).More ↓Less ↑
NEW YORK – Despite public assurances and massive police presence at the New York City Marathon Sunday afternoon, WND has learned several serious security breakdowns took place, including unauthorized personnel roving the finish line.
Earlier in the week, New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly bragged how his department would make this year’s race “the safest ever.” To insure it, Kelly deployed more than 15,000 police officers complemented by an army of highly trained canine sniffers plus additional FBI and Secret Service agents. Major landmarks such as Central Park became fenced off fortresses.
Security was deemed especially important since New York was the first major American road race since the attacks in Boston last April.
But despite all the months of preparation, NYPD sources speaking on background complained of numerous breakdowns during the race.
As was the case during 9/11, communications were a problem because walkie-talkies were not coordinated. The frequencies used by some NYPD field units during the marathon were not compatible with those used by the marathon security personnel. Officers were overheard saying the snafu made communication difficult if not impossible.
There was at least one confrontation between plain-clothes NYPD and marathon security units because of the breakdown. The NYPD units said they had to produce their badges at one point to resolve a local standoff.
Another problem involved authentication of credentials. Insufficient credential scanners at some locations – including the critical finish-finish line area, the critical juncture where a bomb was detonated during the Boston Marathon in April – meant press and personnel badges could not be scanned, forcing security to rely on simple visual identification.
Consequently, several reporters wandered unchallenged into prohibited areas at the race’s finish line.
Many of the elite professional runners who were supposed to have armed security all day also found some of their protection disappear at the finish line, leaving them to fend for themselves and battle the fans who lined the streets.
This year’s race saw a record 45,000 runners participate with more than 2 million spectators watching from Big Apple streets and parks.
WND has also learned that the problems will be the subject of two “after action” reports which will likely land on the desk of Commissioner Kelly this week.
Marathon President Mary Wittenburg, who was informed of the problem late Sunday afternoon, did not discuss the issue.