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July 6th, 2009
10:41 AM ET

LAPD gears up for a "well behaved crowd" at the Staples Center

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/06/intv.mcdonnell.art.jpg caption="The first assistant chief of the LAPD urges people to watch the Michael Jackson memorial at home if they do not have a ticket."]

Michael Jackson’s public memorial will take place Tuesday July 7th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The LAPD says if you don't have a ticket, don't come. Hundreds of thousands of fans could line the streets of downtown Los Angeles. How will police keep the situation under control?

First assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Jim McDonnell spoke with CNN’s Kiran Chetry Monday.

Kiran Chetry: I know the police force is used to dealing with crowds of epic proportions for various reasons. There are expectations of perhaps 100,000 people or more coming out there even though everyone has said if you don’t have a ticket, don't come out. What are you expecting and how are you looking to handle the situation?

Watch the video »

Jim McDonnell: I guess the crowd estimate is the $64,000 question that everybody is wondering about and we are as well. We had the Lincoln parade about two weeks ago, we had about 250,000 people turn out for that. It was an overall, a very orderly crowd. A few incidents we dealt with quickly. I anticipate the crowd here will be well behaved. It will be a crowd that gathers for the right reasons and keeps the reason they’re there in mind. But as far as putting a number on it, we have reached out a number of times, every chance we get, actually, asking people to stay home if they don't have tickets enjoy it from the comfort of their own home with friends rather than coming out standing out on hot sun on the city street two or three blocks from the venue.

Chetry: How are you guys communicating with organizers of the event? How are you all coordinating to make sure you know what's going on and they’ve made their decisions final as we get closer and closer to this happening.

McDonnell: We have point of contact with the family. We’re working very closely with AEG, the company that is putting on the event at Staples, the people who own the Staples Center. We've had contact from the beginning so we’re working through all the complexities of this. I think it's running as smoothly as possible given the circumstances.

Chetry: Speaking of the Staples Center, so that is a venue that holds 20,000. There are many other venues in Los Angeles that would hold many more. Was this intentional to keep this to a smaller group of people actually invited to this event or did that have to do with some of the connections with AEG and Michael Jackson?

McDonnell: I think there were a number of things that went into it. Certainly I'm sure that had a big piece in the decision making. But I think the venue itself lends itself to being able to put on an event like this. There are other larger events. They are older venues; they’re not wired the same. It would take a tremendous amount of work in a very short period of time to be able to get them up to speed to be able to do what will be done with things that already in place at the Staples Center.

Chetry: I got you. Of course the cost of this will be quite high as we all know. And the City of Los Angeles facing its worst fiscal crisis the city has seen in decades, you have a $530 million budget deficit, which I’m sure you're familiar with. Are you concerned about how much this is going to cost and how this might deplete the resources of your city and your city’s police?

McDonnell: Certainly the cost weighs heavily on all of us. We're well aware how expensive it is to police one of these events. The only thing that comes to mind is how expensive it is if you don't do it right. We have every intention to go out there and deploy heavily, deploy appropriately to be able to deal with any eventuality. However, we will try to demobilize as quickly as we can given the circumstances. If the crowds are less than we anticipated, we'll be able to break off some of those officers deployed, put them around the city or if they’re on overtime, to be able to send them home. That's something we deal with all the time. We're very watchful of the bottom line.

Chetry: How many officers do you expect to be out there?

McDonnell: I wouldn't give an estimate on that. That's something we don't talk about before the event anyway.


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