Oak View Group’s security subsidiary, Prevent Advisors, has hired former LAPD Deputy Chief and Counter-Terrorism expert Michael Downing as Executive Vice President of Security. Effective May 1, Downing will leverage his 35 years of experience to architect security programs tailored for today’s unique threats to stadiums and arenas including drones and the security world’s newest hazard, cyber attacks.
“We are trying to build a very resilient environment for stadiums and arenas and sports and music so that the people who are enjoying these ways of life feel safe and secure,” Downing told Amplify. “I am going to be in a position to help bring in technology and smart practices to both keep an eye on the threat and how its evolving and how we prevent it, but also technologies that detect and deter potential attacks from occurring.”
Through his extensive global counter-terrorism and intelligence network, Downing will lead Prevent Advisors’ Intelligence Services along with facilitating a direct collaboration between arenas and stadiums and local and federal law enforcement agencies.
“We can have good relationships with our state, local, and federal agencies with an open line of communication,” Downing said. “Depending on what kind of tactics or capabilities some of these adversaries are using like drones or IEDs (improvised explosive devices) or vehicle manning techniques there are things that we can do to mitigate that risk.”
“As a native Angeleno I’ve had the privilege of seeing first hand just how far reaching of an impact Chief Downing’s work has had in our community and communities around the world,” said OVG Founder and CEO Tim Leiweke in a statement. “His understanding of the security threats that face our commercial and sports and entertainment districts is unparalleled, and that expertise is already being integrated into the security strategies of our Arena and Stadium Alliance members.”
Downing explained that one of the greatest risks he sees to venue safety are the evolving terrorist attacks that have spread throughout Europe and also entered America through online propaganda and the return of foreign fighters.
“Homegrown violent extremists are still inspired by this ideology that ISIS is putting out,” he said. “I don’t think we are going to see these big, spectacular 9-11 attacks because authorities are doing a really good job in terms of intelligence sharing. But these singular, small extremists are harder to detect.”
Downing explained that the government would be the first to admit that they can’t tackle security all on their own. In his new position, he plans to help the private sector partner with federal, state, and local agencies to “set up forums so that we can be a learning organization and distribute that learning to the venues so that they can be aware of what is coming.”
In addition to physical attacks, Downing plans to out an emphasis on cyber security at Prevent Advisors.
“When I was with the LAPD we built the first cyber intrusion command center of any municipality in the United States. That was to detect intrusions and penetrations on our cyber infrastructure for the 44 departments within Los Angeles,” Downing said.
He explained that phase two of that program was to bring that intelligence to the private sector to help businesses protect themselves from stolen information or copyrighted material and to prevent the possibility of systems being overridden or entirely shut down.
“Right now we have a really big responsibility to educate and orient the private sector to this evolving threat that we face. It’s not going away,” he added. “I think there is a lot of low hanging fruit in the venue industry. Like any business, if you have security professional come in and do a vulnerabilities assessment, there’s always room to improve.”
While Oak View Group has an arena alliance of 24 of North Americas largest arenas, Downing is confident that the strategies Prevent Advisors plans to implement will be completely scalable for venues of all sizes.
“I think there is a lot that we can do to front-load these environments and venues so that they are oriented to the fact that there is a threat, that they aren’t being paranoid or over anxious,” Downing said. “We need to protect our values and part of those values is being free to go to music or sporting events and be able to relax and enjoy that entertainment. They can do that when they have confidence that they are going to be protected.”
Downing joins a decorated team of Prevent Advisors’ executives and Board Members, including former LAPD Chief and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, Executive Chairman of the Florida Panthers Peter Luukko, and law enforcement and intelligence experts Mark Camillo and Michael Rodriguez.