Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mavericks parade set for Thursday; Dallas learned from Cowboys fiasco

Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer
The Dallas Mavericks celebrate with the trophy after winning game six of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, June 12, 2011. The Mavericks won 105-95 to take the title.
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City officials say they’re more prepared than in the past for the event to celebrate the NBA title

Plans for the parade to celebrate the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA title aren’t fully settled yet, but as officials debate the details, all can agree about what they don’t want.

The year was 1993, when the Dallas Cowboys clinched their third Super Bowl championship. Too few cops and lackadaisical planning resulted in violent downtown clashes between parade revelers.

About 50 people were hurt and 75 arrested, and there were nearly 40 reports of looting and vandalism. Embarrassing national news footage of the violence shamed Dallas officials into rethinking their crowd control plan.

Although city leaders were coy Monday about the parade schedule, Mavericks spokeswoman Sarah Melton confirmed that it would be Thursday.

Officials said they plan to announce the details Tuesday, but the blueprint for success comes from the year after the tumultuous parade when the Cowboys repeated as Super Bowl champs and the celebrations went smoothly.

The Mavs’ parade will probably be from City Hall to the American Airlines Center, with Mavs owner Mark Cuban saying he’d pick up the tab for the cash-strapped city.

City spokesman Frank Librio said the city has a “detailed blueprint” for the parade that has been “on the shelf for several years” to guide planning.

“First and foremost, our plan includes several public safety measures to keep crowds safe while still having a good time,” he said. “We believe our plan achieves the proper balance.”

The year after the 1993 fiasco, working from a new 50-page action plan, the department assembled the largest security detail in its history: 1,000 officers, backed up by 350 from neighboring departments — the first time Dallas police ever had to call in such outside help.

And recent Dallas megacrowd events — including the 115,000 revelers for the 1999 Dallas Stars Stanley Cup win and the 2006 “megamarch” of a half-million immigration protesters — have gone smoothly.

Well-behaved crowd

Sunday’s Mavs championship victory is a franchise first, and the team’s broad fan base could attract more than the immigration rally, some officials estimate. If the hours after the historic win are any indication, the Mavs parade will probably be fun but not out of hand.

Early Monday, after Mavs revelers flooded downtown, Dallas police reported only 14 arrests, mostly for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. There were no reports of injuries or property damage by fans.

“The vast majority have been cooperative and good spirited,” spokesman Lt. Ches Williams.

With Dallas-Fort Worth’s role as a sports industrial complex expanding — the area has hosted the NBA All Stars game, the Super Bowl, the World Series and now an NBA championship — it’s likely that police and planners will get even better at traffic and crowd control.

“Law enforcement here has got this down to a science at this point,” said Mark White, spokesman for the Dallas FBI.

For the immigration rally, then Police Chief David Chief Kunkle, now a candidate for Dallas mayor, used overtime to assign nearly 600 Dallas officers, with the sheriff’s department adding 200.

By comparison, about 300 or so officers typically work during the annual Texas-OU game.

The debacle of 1993

That is in stark contrast to 1993.

Then, officials said no to overtime, resulting in about 230 on-duty officers matched against what turned out to be 400,000 revelers. After the violence erupted, up to 500 officers were summoned from all over town.

“We turned onto Commerce, and I looked at what lie in front of us, and I knew we were overwhelmed,” recalls McKinney Police Chief Doug Kowalski, who in 1993 was a Dallas police SWAT captain working the parade.

“The tactical division was not really consulted,” he said. “We were thrown at the parade at the last minute. It had been a long time since there had been a sports victory in Dallas, and everyone was overexuberant. Everyone wanted to do something to celebrate the Cowboys. They kept adding things on as it went along.”

Dallas police intelligence officers are now on the hunt for emerging problems well before an event such as a parade. Also, a contingent of SWAT officers in full gear is standard at all large gatherings.

“In 1993, there were a lot of lessons learned,” Kowalski said. “There were changes made. You have to be ready for any eventuality, because things can turn on a dime.

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