Security Workers Ticketed For Frisking

When he saw it, Oregon Liquor Control Commission Inspector Joey McGlinchy knew he had to ask some questions. 

He’d previously crossed paths with Crowd Management Services’ blue shirt-clad security workers at a number of entertainment and sporting events. But an April 23 concert at the McDonald Theatre in downtown Eugene marked the first time that he’d noticed them frisking patrons as they entered a venue.

“The pat-downs were what caught my eye,” McGlinchy said.

He soon found out that three of the four CMS workers who were stopping concertgoers to search for contraband hadn’t been authorized by the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training to initiate physical contact with other people while working as private security guards.

McGlinchy ticketed all three of the non-credentialed workers, alleging that they broke the law by performing the pat-downs without certification granted to security personnel who complete a required training course.

It’s a charge that’s rarely filed in Oregon, although OLCC inspectors say they often check security workers’ certification status while making unannounced visits to businesses that are licensed to sell alcohol.

The CMS employees are scheduled to appear in Lane County Circuit Court on May 21. They face monetary fines if found guilty of the noncriminal violations.

Now, the state’s public safety standards and training department has launched an investigation to determine if the McDonald Theatre incident was an isolated incident, or part of some broader issue that CMS needs to address.

“We want to have on record that we did look into this,” DPSST rules and compliance coordinator Linsay Hale said. “We also want to make sure the company is aware of what the standards are.”

Mike Schueller, who supervises CMS’s operations in much of Oregon from his Eugene office, did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment on the incident.

CMS offers security services in eight states, including Oregon, where it employs approximately 925 part-time workers, according to the company’s website.

In a report filed Wednesday in court, McGlinchy wrote that the three workers who now face charges had told him that CMS officials said they could pat down the theater’s patrons and that they “were frustrated that CMS had put them in this situation.”

Hale said she feels for the workers: “I’m completely empathetic with what these three people are going through. They had no idea that they were doing anything wrong.”

She added that some security firms who do business in Oregon have expressed confusion in the past regarding what duties require state training and certification.

Under state law, private security workers aren’t required to obtain a DPSST card if their responsibilities involve taking tickets, working as ushers or parking attendants, or assisting with general supervision of an event. But if the job crosses over into anything that includes initiating a potentially confrontational action, such as physical contact or property confiscation, state certification is required.

Hale said her agency has begun working with private security companies on a project to try and clear up the rules that have caused confusion.

“The goal is finally to put this debate to bed,” she said.

Protecting the public is the bottom line, both Hale and McGlinchy said. Having untrained security workers perform jobs that involve touching other people creates “a public safety issue, in our eyes,” McGlinchy said.

He said Kesey Enterprises, which produces and manages events at Eugene-area venues, including the McDonald Theatre, has been instructed to double-check the certification status of private security guards hired to pat down patrons at future events, in light of the April 23 incident.

“I anticipate that they’ll fully comply,” McGlinchy said.