Police and security are meant to keep concertgoers safe, but what happens when they do more harm than good?

In summer 2020, as America reckoned with a sickness in its system of law enforcement, so too did the music community interrogate the role of police and hired security at concerts. Like the municipalities that explored community-based alternatives to policing, activists wondered what might replace the imposing CPD tower at Lollapalooza or confrontational security guards at local venues. The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) even formed an abolition committee in solidarity with police- and prison-abolition movements. 

The live-music industry supports and relies upon police and police-adjacent security in myriad ways, and severing its connection to policing is no small task. Music venues in gentrifying neighborhoods can contribute to the overpolicing of these communities. Retired and off-duty police officers often staff private security forces, and in Illinois, former and current officers don’t have to complete security firearm training. And perhaps most obviously, the presence of police or security is usually a given at all but the smallest licensed music venues. (Unlicensed and DIY venues are another matter, of course.)

Law enforcement at concerts can seem like a necessary evil—bringing together a large number of people who are likely to be drinking or using drugs often leads to physical altercations and medical emergencies. But hired security and police are frequently ill-equipped to keep concertgoers safe in those situations. What viable alternatives exist to the status quo? Music venues have reopened to a society that’s reexamining its relationship with police, and many of them are asking themselves this question.

Some Chicago venues implement reform, others only talk

Racism is baked into modern policing practices. Since 2015, Black Americans have been killed by police at a rate more than twice as high as white Americans, according to an analysis by the Washington Post that began with data from that year. Of the 49 people killed by police in Chicago since 2015, 36 were Black, according to the same data. So when Chicago erupted with protests in summer 2020, it wasn’t only about abolition. Activists were calling to dismantle a system that relies on white supremacist values to regulate society. 

For music venues, heeding this call has meant adopting measures to keep all patrons, artists, and staff safe—specifically those of color. And while some venues implemented meaningful reform, others responded in ways that felt performative or dismissive.

In summer 2020, a business posting on social media without acknowledging the ongoing, generation-defining struggle for racial justice could seem tone-deaf and callous. So when South Loop rock venue Reggies tweeted about reopening its patio a few days after the George Floyd protests broke out, a Boston-based artist manager (who asked to remain anonymous to protect his clients) felt it demonstrated a disregard for promoting anti-racism. He’d been primed to react that way, he explains, by memories of Reggies security officers he says were racist toward his Black clients.

“Pretty much every time I’ve been through Reggies—and you know, this could be coincidental, maybe it’s not—but it’s Black artists, specifically, that I’ve had bad experiences with,” he says.

In 2017, one of the manager’s clients, a well-known rapper, played a Lollapalooza aftershow at Reggies. When the artist and team tried to enter the building, the manager says, security assumed they were gate-crashing and became aggressive. “[Security] was, for whatever reason, questioning our credentials,” he recalls. “It’s humiliating, you know, to go to a show where you’re billed, being paid to perform, and security’s basically like, ‘Get the fuck out of here.’”

Credential checks are essential and a sign of diligent security, the manager says, but the problem lies in what he sees as the guards’ assumption that a Black artist must be trying to game the system and sneak people into the show. (Reggies employs in-house security personnel.) This assumption reinforces the criminalization and overpolicing of Black musicians. He says this issue isn’t unique to Reggies; it’s a consistent problem in venues across the country.

Communication, the manager says, can prevent some of these issues. “What makes for great security is when they’re communicative,” he says. “When there’s an effort on security’s side to understand who the personnel is.”

Reggies did not respond to repeated requests for comment. 

An illustration of a large, boisterous, multiracial crowd at a rock show
For music venues, heeding the call to dismantle white supremacist systems of policing has meant adopting measures to keep all patrons, artists, and staff safe—specifically those of color. Credit: Daniel Zalkus for Chicago Reader

Metro has received similar criticism, though not for being silent at the wrong time. Days after George Floyd was murdered, Metro sent an email to subscribers with the subject line “How can you combat racism?” To K.D., a former audio engineer and artist manager who’s going by her initials to protect past clients, the email felt disingenuous. K.D. went to Metro only as a patron, not in her professional capacity, and in her view, she says, the security at the venue acted racist every time she attended a show. 

“Their security were assholes. That’s the best way I can put it,” K.D. says. “And it seems like when I was with certain people, it was heightened. Because I’m not white, but I’m white passing.”

K.D. recalls a Big K.R.I.T. concert she attended in 2015 with a friend. When the two of them went through security, K.D. says the guards spent extra time patting down her friend, a Black man, compared to white patrons. “It was like they was checking him for weapons and things like that. They went out of their way to just do extra, like going under his arm, checking genitalia, his rear. He was uncomfortable,” she says.

In response to a particularly bad experience with security at Metro in 2013, K.D. took to Facebook to tell her story. The post received comments from four or five friends, she says, who’d had similar experiences.

“I don’t think that they actually look to combat racism, just by the way they treat their patrons,” K.D. says, explaining her reaction to Metro’s email. “It’s almost like they’re doing it just for marketability.”

Metro declined to comment for this story, but it did point to its safety policy: “Metro does not tolerate acts of violence, victimization, or predation. We always encourage our patrons to voice their concerns and want you to know that we not only hear you—we support any effort that makes our local music scene safer and more equitable.”

Other venues used the protests as an opportunity to revise their approach to concert safety. In summer 2020, Schubas Tavern in Lakeview circulated a list of alternatives to calling the police among staff and posted safety information around the venue. The safety info is still up today, and the staff list remains in force. “We’re always constantly re-evaluating and looking at where we can improve, but with security, we’ve really been communicating to the patrons in the venue that security is a resource to them,” says Dan Apodaca, talent buyer at Schubas.

Schubas made headlines late last year when its CEO and president, Michael Johnston, faced accusations of secretly videotaping two women in his home; each had worked for him in several roles, including nanny, house manager, and personal assistant, and he used hidden motion-activated cameras to film them in the bathroom. Johnston has pled not guilty. In March, two more women—a former dog- and house-sitter and a former housekeeper—accused Johnston and his wife of illegally videotaping them, according to Block Club. Johnston’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment regarding the recent charges.

Audiotree, the parent company of Schubas and sister venue Lincoln Hall, removed Johnston from his positions following the first set of accusations, and Apodaca says that Schubas has enhanced its workplace safety measures. 

“We’re refining and expanding our internal training practices for every employee and equipping our managers with the tools to lead recurring pre-shift training and discussion sessions with staff on various topics like bystander intervention and the avenues available for reporting workplace harassment,” Apodaca writes in an email. He also says the venue will continue to do everything in its power to ensure patron safety at its concerts. 

Even before defunding the police entered mainstream conversation, Apodaca says, Schubas emphasized de-escalation strategies, collaborated with Our Music My Body, and treated calling the police as a last resort. The venue employs in-house security, which Apodaca sees as preferable to outside security because guards feel accountable to the venue. “I think that helps reinforce our philosophical approach of security being as much a hospitality role as a security role,” he says.

The Golden Dagger, a small venue in Lincoln Park formerly called the Tonic Room, also employs in-house security trained in de-escalation strategies. “When we hire security, we specifically ask if they are able to intervene and protect the venue in moments of contention without calling the police,” says Zoey Victoria, talent buyer for the Golden Dagger.

If Victoria had to call the police—which at the time of our interview she hadn’t yet—she says she would notify everyone within the venue. “The bottom line is, if we call the police to our venue, we are making it unsafe for people,” she says. “We have a really big queer audience, a lot of young people, and a lot of people whose identities don’t necessarily allow them to be protected by the police.”

Victoria says it’s incumbent upon talent buyers and venue owners to adopt an anti-racist and abolitionist ethos. “It’s really easy to talk a big talk and make the Instagram post and donate to the big organization,” she says. “But what needs to happen right now is direct mutual aid and uncomfortable conversations in meeting rooms.”

Community policing at concerts 

The propensity of police and venue security toward confrontation and racial bias may result in part from poorly conceived training. Data suggest that the increasingly common military-style approach to training primes recruits to act as soldiers rather than as mediators, which all but encourages violence. And the training used by CPD and private security to address implicit racial bias appears inadequate as well. 

A national study published in 2016 on the training of nearly 135,000 recruits in 664 state and local police academies found that recruits received on average 168 hours of training in firearms, self-defense, and use of force. By comparison, each recruit spent about ten hours learning to respond to mental health crises and about nine on conflict management. The same study found that nearly half the recruits received training that emphasized the military-style “stress” model, even though the police spend the vast majority of their time responding to nonviolent calls

Police agencies also heavily recruit military veterans: vets comprise nearly 20 percent of police officers in the U.S. despite being about 7 percent of the population. The City of Chicago offers preferential treatment to the applications of prospective police recruits who served in the U.S. armed forces, and the Chicago Department of Human Resources, which refers candidates to the Chicago Police Department, pledges that veterans will comprise 20 percent of candidate referrals. According to a 2021 report from the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General, 11 percent of police recruits received veteran’s preference.

These measures are intended to honor veterans and alleviate the financial hardship often connected to past military service, but they may also contribute to more violent police forces. According to the Marshall Project, veterans are more likely than nonveterans to receive use-of-force complaints and to fire their guns.

Implicit bias training might have the potential to combat racial bias among law enforcement officers, though scant research exists on the efficacy of such training. The Chicago Police Department began to develop an implicit bias training course in 2017, but according to a 2019 investigation by the Intercept, at least 11 of the 17 officers who’d led that training had records of alleged abuses against Black people. (Many of the complaints filed against these officers did not note the complainant’s race.)

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which approves private security training and issues security licenses, does not list implicit bias training as a requirement of security guard training in the state.

Security guard training often omits lessons on nonviolent mediation and conflict resolution too. To become an unarmed security guard in Illinois, you must complete a 20-hour training course that includes lessons on report writing, patrolling, criminal and civil law, and security guard ethics. Armed guards must complete an additional 40-hour firearms training, which can be waived for former and current police officers. 

“A lot of what was sort of clumsily labeled ‘defund the police’ has actually more to do with things like community policing and de-escalation as a first response. These are the basic first principles we have organized our security ethos around.” 

Buck Down, longtime member of the Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus team at the Burning Man festival in Nevada

Some of the most common transgressions at concerts and festivals—drug possession, public intoxication, gate-crashing, possession of alcohol by a minor, sexual assault—might be better addressed not by police or security personnel but by a social worker or nonconfrontational mediator. Community policing could also be a viable alternative, and one major event has taken a stab at it. 

Burning Man is a massive desert party that attracts nearly 80,000 people each year. Much reporting on the event relays stories of bizarre artistic spectacles, eccentric displays of personal excess, and supposed lawlessness. Far less coverage, unfortunately, focuses on Burning Man’s community-based approach to safety. 

The Black Rock Rangers are a mostly volunteer team who mediate disputes and help solve crises at the event. Burning Man contracts High Rock Security, a Colorado-based company born out of the Black Rock Rangers, to support the volunteers in particularly difficult situations. High Rock’s unarmed team relies upon de-escalation, harm reduction, first aid, access control, and behavioral science to resolve conflicts. 

YouTube video
A short documentary about the Black Rock Rangers posted in 2018

“I’ve noticed that conventional security, if something can’t be resolved, they’re going to come over there and yell at you or kick you out—escalate, in other words. Just going to bring a bigger stick, whereas we try to avoid that by talking,” says High Rock cofounder Michael Black, who goes professionally by Ranger Crow. If a patron is causing a disturbance or experiencing psychological distress, a High Rock staffer will speak with her until the situation is safe again.

If a patron is acting physically threatening, a High Rock professional will lightly restrain them—in other words, hug them—until the situation is resolved. “If it has to go beyond verbal, it’s kind of hugging in some sense, if that’s what it takes to be like, ‘OK, don’t hurt yourself or anyone else,’” Crow explains. If appropriate, High Rock will bring in medical or psychological experts, all while talking the patron down. “What’s not happening is them getting strapped to a gurney and taken out to a hospital in an ambulance, or them getting handcuffed and thrown in the back of a paddy wagon,” he says.

Several state and federal agencies, including local sheriffs and tribal police, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service, are also present at Burning Man. And in some extreme cases, High Rock must defer temporarily to one or more of these agencies. But High Rock cofounder Seth Schrenzel says this symbiotic relationship can’t function unless the authorities cede control of the situation when they’re no longer needed. 

“We have been in circumstances where we had an excellent relationship with the law enforcement officers assigned to a festival or an event where the officers, at our request, got involved in a circumstance that was escalating beyond where we felt like we were going to be useful,” Schrenzel says. “We had an understanding with them, that once the immediate and specific need for them to get involved was no longer a factor, they would turn this entire scene back to us.”

Schrenzel believes that there’s a place for law enforcement at festivals, though the nature of its presence can make a world of a difference. Armed officers dressed in tactical black read as confrontational from the get-go, and driving squad cars through a crowded festival is ineffective and unsafe. A better approach is for officers to engage with the community in a friendly manner, Schrenzel says.

For similar reasons, Schrenzel thinks security is more effective unarmed. “The presence of firearms nearly guarantees the fact that a situation will escalate,” Schrenzel says. Data support his claim: according to a 2018 Vox study, U.S. states with the highest gun ownership rates and the most permissive gun laws also have the most police killings. 

Concert patrons themselves often perceive the presence of police or security as a threat. In a 2021 online survey of 216 festival attendees on several continents, 46 percent reported concerns about unwanted security—more than reported any other concern. Only 19 percent felt private security made them safer. 

Jessi Fehrenbach has worked at Burning Man for five years and has seen High Rock at work. She’s also worked in many venues for a large entertainment company she prefers not to name. Fehrenbach says there’s no comparison between the Rangers at Burning Man and conventional music-venue security. 

“The rangers come and they decrease the tension in an argument, just by listening to each side,” Fehrenbach says. “I think that the music world as a whole could really benefit from a program like the Rangers on-site at different festivals. It would probably help law enforcement. There’d be less arrests and less problems if there was mediation.”

Is Burning Man’s model a viable alternative to the police? Buck Down, who has worked for Burning Man’s Gate, Perimeter, and Exodus team since 2010, thinks so. “A lot of what was sort of clumsily labeled ‘defund the police’ has actually more to do with things like community policing and de-escalation as a first response,” Down says. “These are the basic first principles we have organized our security ethos around [at Burning Man].”

Data suggest that community-based policing at Burning Man works. Though 78,850 people attended the event in 2019, only 60 were arrested, mostly for drug possession—and the festival didn’t descend into chaos as you’d expect if security were simply ignoring antisocial behavior. In 2014, Burning Man’s crime rate was far lower than that of any comparably sized town, according to research from Manuel A. Gomez, associate dean of international and graduate studies and associate professor of law at Florida International University. 

Another crucial aspect of concert safety is the presence of medical professionals, especially when people are likely to be using drugs. But punitive legislation and stigma against drug use can prevent users from seeking help in life-threatening situations. DanceSafe, a Colorado-based public health organization that aims to promote drug safety at festivals, believes that experts in public health and social services are better suited to handle drug-related emergencies than the police.

YouTube video
A DanceSafe promotional video from 2019

“Police are going to have a much more historical record of targeting Black and Brown people, low-income people. There are structural and systemic issues and really complex power dynamics,” says Jessica Breemen, chief growth and impact officer of DanceSafe. In an effort to push back against the criminalization that’s been advanced by the war on drugs, DanceSafe offers festival patrons nonjudgmental and comprehensive public health services, including drug testing, free water, and electrolytes.

DanceSafe also advocates for repealing the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, which allows law enforcement to fine and imprison business owners, property owners, and event promoters for failing to prevent drug-related offenses on their premises. The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Joe Biden, was initially called the RAVE Act and died in Congress in 2002 after the dance-music community advocated against it. The following year, Biden attached it as a rider to the PROTECT Act, which aimed to prevent and prosecute child abuse. The PROTECT Act passed, prompting critics such as the ACLU to accuse Biden of sneaking the RAVE Act through Congress without a public hearing or recorded vote.

The odds of prosecution under the RAVE Act are low—no major music festival has been prosecuted, according to a 2018 Chicago-Kent Law review—but Breemen says the law still prevents venues from offering lifesaving initiatives such as safe consumption sites and overdose prevention programs, because such measures tacitly acknowledge the likely presence of drug-related offenses.

Because safe consumption has been criminalized, venues and security companies may be less likely to train their guards in drug safety. Breemen says this can lead to “not knowing how to de-escalate, physical force, unbalanced power dynamics . . . it could lead to not knowing how to provide medical services and it ends up becoming a medical emergency, hospitalizations, or death.”

Security and police also frequently lack the training to respond to survivors of sexual assault, which occurs all too commonly at concerts and festivals. Chicago-based campaign Our Music My Body aims to raise awareness and improve prevention of sexual harassment and assault in the music scene and provide survivors with safe space at shows and festivals.

Security officers often respond inappropriately to disclosures of assault, says Maggie Arthur, director of education and training for Resilience (which advocates for survivors of sexual violence) and former campaign coordinator at Our Music My Body. Sometimes officers even perpetrate it. “If someone doesn’t feel comfortable going to security, because security was the one who caused harm, we’re there as people who they could come talk to, who would potentially help them find support or resources, or just listen and empathize and support them in whatever way feels good,” Arthur says.

At the 2021 installments of Lollapalooza, Riot Fest, and Ruido Fest, Our Music My Body received a total of six disclosures from survivors. Four of these alleged instances involved security perpetrating harm or responding ineffectually to victims, Arthur says.

In addition to its presence at shows, Our Music My Body conducts training courses with local venue staff on how to identify a potential assault and intervene. To persuade venues that such training was necessary, though, OMMB had to prove to them that sexual assault actually occurred in their spaces. When the campaign launched in 2016, few venues or festivals saw an urgent need. “A lot of those fests were like, ‘Yeah, that sounds really great and super important, but it’s definitely not happening at our fest,’” Arthur says. 

An illustration of three exaggeratedly large security guards looming over the crowd at a rock show, with their hands on their faces in the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" configuration
Security guard training often omits lessons on nonviolent mediation and conflict resolution. Credit: Daniel Zalkus for Chicago Reader

So in 2017, Our Music My Body conducted a study of 509 Chicago-area festivalgoers—379 of them women—and found that 92 percent of women reported having experienced sexual harassment at Chicago music events. “When we were able to bring that information back to these festivals and venues, immediately they were much more interested,” Arthur says. The survey also suggested a business incentive for supporting the education of staff and security in violence prevention and crisis intervention: 84 percent of respondents said they’d be more likely to attend a concert at a venue that provides such training. By 2019, Our Music My Body was partnered with 20 venues in the Chicagoland area.

Arthur says that it’s unnecessary to involve police and security in instances of sexual assault if a venue’s staff is well-trained. “We don’t need security and cops—we can help each other. And so we want staff to be armed with that knowledge, because we know that they’re the ones who are most likely going to see this stuff happening,” she explains.

Unfortunately, training festival security is more difficult than training staff at smaller venues. Though some festivals welcome Our Music My Body to table at their events, Arthur says many organizers don’t believe the group’s training can work logistically. Festivals enlist hundreds of employees and volunteers from around the country, making it a challenge to gather everyone in one place (or even at one time, in the case of an online course). Hired private security companies often provide their own training—though many don’t cover sexual assault, Arthur says—and they may be reluctant to collaborate with outside groups. 

Arthur says OMMB’s attempts to get involved in the training of festival security have been especially frustrating. “Somehow there’s still this resistance of, like, they’re just not gonna listen or they’re not gonna care,” she says. “We have had so many circular conversations with fest organizers . . . then they’re like, ‘Oh sorry, it’s not gonna work out.’” Lollapalooza, Riot Fest, and Ruido Fest did not respond to requests for comment.

If a security guard perpetrates harm, it can be nearly impossible for the festival or the survivor to track that individual down without the company’s cooperation. Our Music My Body has proposed adding unique numbers to security guards’ T-shirts to make them more identifiable, but festivals have resisted the idea.

“Chicago loves to say, ‘We are the home of Lollapalooza. And we have these venues that have been around since the 80s, and they’re still kicking it.’ That is a source of pride for our city. In my brain, it only makes sense that you would want those music spaces you’re so proud of to be safer spaces for people to attend shows,” Arthur says. “[Chicago is] in a position to be on the forefront of some initiatives.”

Allegations of corruption haunt local security giant 

The playing field is hardly level, though, and those initiatives have a steep climb ahead of them. Most community-based safety groups are small and volunteer run, and the concert-security industry is dominated by massive companies. In Chicago, Monterrey Security Consultants Inc. provides services at major venues such as Lollapalooza and Soldier Field. But the company has been embroiled in so many scandals that investigators and even some former employees believe it to be incapable of keeping patrons safe. 

From the moment of its launch, Monterrey has been at best scandal adjacent. The company was founded in 1999 by former CPD officers Juan Gaytan and Santiago Solis. The latter is the brother of the disgraced former alderperson Danny Solis. 

In 2017, Minneapolis law firm Maslon LLP carried out an independent investigation of Monterrey Security at the behest of SMG, operator of U.S. Bank Stadium, where Monterrey had been providing security since the previous year. The study relied in part upon FOIA’d documents from the Chicago Police Board, and revealed that Gaytan had faced a litany of misconduct allegations during his nine years with CPD. In 1995, Chicago Police Superintendent Matt Rodriguez and the Chicago Corporation Counsel accused Gaytan of taking money by force and “disrespect to or maltreatment of a person” and recommended he be terminated. The Chicago Police Board acquitted Gaytan of some charges but found him guilty of hitting two people with a flashlight, resulting in a three-month suspension, according to the report. 

In late 2001, the Chicago Police Board charged Gaytan with fabricating evidence, unnecessarily pointing his weapon, and providing false information in a police report, all in association with a single incident in 1994. Gaytan resigned from the force in August 2002, before he could face a Police Board hearing on these matters

Within Monterrey’s first three years, its annual business soared to $3 million, even though it allegedly operated without a license for almost two of those years. And despite mounting allegations regarding the company’s misdeeds, in 2002 it was awarded a $600,000-per-year contract to provide services at Soldier Field, according to the Chicago Tribune. In 2013, the company renewed its contract with Soldier Field and added two smaller venues to its turf, bringing in a total of more than $2.6 million, according to the Sun-Times

In 2016, the Sun-Times reported that Chicago police had arrested two Monterrey guards for offering to sell scalped wristbands. Neither guard had a security license, which Gaytan justified by saying they provided “guest services” rather than security. Gaytan told the Sun-Times that at any given Soldier Field event, one-third of Monterrey guards are unlicensed. 

The following year, a man died of asphyxia after being restrained by a Monterrey guard at a Walmart on the northwest side. The guard, Adrian Santos III, was wearing a vest that said “sheriff” despite having been fired from his job as sheriff’s deputy in Lake County, Indiana, two years prior. Santos wasn’t licensed as a security guard, and he had been previously charged with domestic battery and felony strangulation following a fight with his wife (though the charges were dropped after she recanted her statements). 

Monterrey is required to verify the status of police officers among its employees every year, and the company told the Chicago Tribune that Santos had provided such documents. He wasn’t an officer for the majority of his employment, though—he was fired by Monterrey in December 2017, more than two years after losing his sheriff’s deputy job, and he didn’t return to police work till he was hired by the Illinois village of Phoenix the next month. 

“I assumed I was going to get trained in before I started working, but I just got thrown on the job.”

Jacquan Pittman, former 24-hour security guard for Monterrey Security Consultants Inc.

In 2015, Monterrey won a competitive bid to provide security at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Minnesota Vikings play. The company hired Jacquan Pittman as a 24-hour security guard, even though he didn’t have any experience except being a bouncer at a nightclub. In an interview, Pittman says that Monterrey started him on the floor without providing any training. 

“I let them know I didn’t have any experience at all with security, besides working as a bouncer for a nightclub, which wasn’t actual 24-hour security,” Pittman says. “I assumed I was going to get trained in before I started working, but I just got thrown on the job.”

Pittman says he worked for two weeks before receiving any training, and that what he did receive was lackluster at best. “They had us read through stuff and write it down on a piece of paper. There wasn’t any test or anything,” he says. According to Pittman’s notes, the course consisted of responding with “true” or “false” to statements such as “The elements of a crime are like the ingredients of a recipe” and “The biggest contributor to the security profession in our history was WW2.”

Monterrey skimped on background checks too, Pittman says. While on the job, Pittman would see coworkers disappear without notice, only to learn from other guards that they had been hired before their background checks cleared. If an employee’s background check returned with red flags, Monterrey would dismiss him.

“I was seeing people and then I wouldn’t see people,” Pittman says. “I come to find out, [Monterrey was] just hiring people without getting their background checks back. Once they got the background checks back, whether or not it was cleared determined if they let somebody go and have more people come in.”

Pittman only lasted one month with Monterrey Security. The lack of training made him uncomfortable, and he didn’t get paid till his brief tenure was nearly over.

Shortly after Pittman quit, on September 25, 2017, Mason LLP published the results of its aforementioned investigation into Monterrey. It alleged that Monterrey had used ambiguous job titles such as “event ambassador” to shirk the background checks and training required of security guards in Minnesota.

At U.S. Bank Stadium, some hired guards who failed their background checks were kept on as “event services,” according to the private investigation. Monterrey told investigators that it employed hundreds of people with criminal convictions, which is illegal under Minnesota law. These convictions included felony robbery, felony theft, assault, weapons violations, and drug offenses.

Minnesota state law stipulates that background checks must be completed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) or the FBI, but according to the report Monterrey used a service called Oracle to run many of its background checks. Investigators deemed Oracle less effective than the BCA or FBI in this capacity for several reasons: Oracle checks don’t employ fingerprints, they contain a slew of disclaimers that describe their own limitations, and they rely on self-provided information.

The investigation further alleges that Monterrey’s training courses, such as the one Pittman attended, were not administered by a state-approved instructor. Though the Minnesota Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services approved two course instructors for Monterrey, neither taught any courses in Minnesota. Still, Monterrey issued “certificates of achievement” to its U.S. Bank Stadium guards bearing one of the two instructors’ names.

“This isn’t the company you want controlling a crowd of 50,000 to 100,000 people,” Pittman says of Monterrey. “If I would have had Monterrey Security at Astroworld, I would have wanted to hire a different company.” Pittman is speaking hypothetically—neither he nor Monterrey were involved in security at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston, where ten deaths resulted from a crowd surge. Astroworld welcomed 50,000 people per day—half as many as at Lollapalooza. 

Monterrey’s transgressions led U.S. Bank Stadium to fire the company in September 2017 and replace its services overnight, and the next day the Minnesota Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services voted four to zero to revoke Monterrey’s license to do security work in the state, according to Minnesota Public Radio. New York’s Buffalo Bills fired the company shortly after.

According to its website, Monterrey still provides services at Soldier Field, Lollapalooza, Shedd Aquarium, and Allstate Arena, among other venues in Chicago and Indiana. Monterrey did not respond to a request for comment. 


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