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Oly cops have eyes everywhere

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Last time I saw Dave Schwendiman was at the Sydney Olympic Games tying into a nice lunch.

Dave is the lead man from the Utah District United States Attorney's Office assigned to the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command. To you and me, that means he's an Olympic cop and lawyer. He can arrest you and he can prosecute you.

In Sydney he was an observer of Olympic public safety and security operations, a guest of the Australian government and New South Wales Police Service (in Australia they call it a service, here we call it a force). On the day we got together, Dave had plenty of time to sit down over lunch and talk about how things were going in the Aussie Games, which, like just about everything else during those Olympics, could be summed up with the phrase, "No Worries."

I hooked up with Dave Schwendiman again last Thursday. Things have changed from Sydney, though.

He didn't have time for lunch.

Dave did have time for a quick tour of the Olympic Coordination Center, which is in downtown Salt Lake City on the top floors of the Social Hall Plaza. To you and me, that's the Olympic Police Station. It is here where crime, terrorism and other threats to a peaceful Olympics are talked about, monitored, plotted against and, hopefully, stopped in their tracks.

The most impressive room in the complex is the command post where 46 computer monitors sit in front of 46 overstuffed chairs. At each computer station a large label designating which long arm of the law sits there. There's a spot for the FBI, ATF, FAA, INS, DOE, DOJ, EMS, FEMA, U.S. Customs, the State Department, the U.S. attorney, the county sheriff, the city police, the police forces of Provo, Ogden and West Valley, the Utah National Guard, the U. of U. police, and so forth.

I didn't see a chair for the CIA, which is the way it should be.

Dave explained that every day of every hour during the Olympic period there will be "a butt in every seat."

At the front of these computers is a big screen that can display computer images for all in the room to see, and behind that is a row of TV screens that monitor here, there and everywhere along the 100-mile-by-50-mile Olympic Corridor. Want to see a spot on I-80? Want to see Park City Main Street? Want to see what's going on at Olympic Park? No problem.

"There's no place where there won't be eyes," says Dave.

The net effect of all this scrutiny? Well, Dave, for one, can go home and sleep nights.

"There are places in the world that will be safer this February," he says, "but not any places that are holding major events."

In the history of Olympic security, Salt Lake City has moved into first place. It will be very difficult to do things secretively. If someone drops an unattended bag in the Medals Plaza, as happened with the bomb in Atlanta, it will not stay unattended for long, and neither will the person who dropped it.

In Sydney, for the twice-as-big Summer Games, there were about 6,000 people involved with public safety and security. Here, there are 15,000, including the National Guard.

"If I had to be anywhere in the world, I'd rather be here," says Dave. Only maybe with a bit more time for lunch.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.