Minnesota State Fair safety: Fair police chief says department is prepared

New Minnesota State Fair Police Chief Ron Knafla is confident that this year's fair will go off without a hitch after the police department was able to round out hiring its staff this past week.

Earlier this month, the chief wrote a letter to Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher requesting help from the sheriff's office, saying the fair still needed to hire about 100 more officers out of 200. This week, however, the chief announced the fair had reached its goal of 200 law enforcement officers for the fair.

Speaking with Leah Beno on FOX 9's Sunday morning news, Chief Knafla said he was being prudent when he sent the letter, unsure if the department would be able to get to full staff.

"You just can't be sure, that's why I sent the letter to Sheriff Fletcher," said Chief Knafla. "It would have been irresponsible to wait until the day of the fair opening to say we need help. The hiring is a long process and we just wanted to be sure we had enough folks to help us out."

Chief Knafla says he is confident in the security plan the fair has developed for the 12-day event.

"I'm confident we have a good safety and security plan," said the chief. "Some of it stuff we've had implemented over the last few years, some of it new. Some will be obvious to fairgoers and some won't."

The fair is expected a rebound in visitors this year after COVID-19 concerns put a damper on attendance last year and canceled the event entirely in 2020. 

The Great Minnesota Get-Together kicks off this Thursday and runs through Labor Day.

Making large events secure

Guests will see metal detectors at the Minnesota State Fair for the second year in a row. Lars Lasky, a security expert of 30 years, told FOX 9 that metal detectors can make all the difference at a large event and make guests feel safer.

"You're not going to catch everything, but you're going to catch the guns. You're going to catch the bigger knives. A lot of people carry pocket knives," said Lasky, owner of the Duluth-based Stealth Management.

Lasky isn't connected to the fair's security plans, but he's worked crowd control for large festivals and concerts throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"Security and safety should be a No. 1 issue with any event that's happening -- no matter how small it is and how big it is," Lasky said.

Fair officials anticipate attendance numbers to be similar to 2019, when 2.1 million people came to the fair over the course of 12 days. The Ramsey County Sheriff's Office has said it will have active shooter response teams on hand. Lasky said seeing uniformed officers or security staff members may make someone think twice about causing trouble, so it's worth the investment.

"The craziest thing I hear from event people is ‘it won't happen to us,’" Lasky said. "That is the worst thing you can think of in today's world. It can happen anywhere, anytime no matter how small, how big (the event) is."