Dome security firm in violation of state law

Jake Grovum

They’ve been called security guards and rent-a-cops, but now a different word could describe them: underqualified.

At all home Gopher football games, Avalon Fortress Security Corporation handles security operations in conjunction with local police departments.

The St. Peter, Minn.-based Gustavus Adolphus College baseball team works at the Metrodome to assist Avalon.

While the baseball players receive three to four hours of training before their work begins, any individual who participates in security operations must take part in a 12-hour training session, according to Minnesota Statute 326.3361. Without providing the full training session, Avalon is in violation of state law.

Much of the baseball team’s work involves ushering and ticket scanning, but when there is a large rush of fans at the gate, they might be called to do bag checks and pat-down inspections, Avalon’s owner Dan Seman said.

But the second the first baseball player checks a purse or pats down a fan, he becomes a security officer, executive director of the State of Minnesota Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services Marie Ohman said.

Gustavus baseball players have only performed as security guards at one game this season, but Ohman said that is irrelevant.

“If they start performing security functions, we don’t care if it’s 1 percent of someone’s job description or 100 percent,” she said. “If they are performing security functions, they fall under the statutory requirements.”

As for their other responsibilities, there is no such 12-hour training requirement.

Gustavus baseball head coach Mike Carroll said he was unaware there were any issues with what his players were

doing.

“That’s (Avalon’s) problem, and if we knew there was an issue with that, we’d stop doing that immediately,” he said. “I’ll pull those kids out of there today.”

The players work at the games to raise money for the team and told Avalon they only wanted to usher, Carroll said.

The program was also unaware any additional training was needed, Carroll added.

The board handles licensing and compliance issues with security agencies in Minnesota. It continuously monitors a company’s compliance, Ohman said.

While he agrees the team should participate in the 12-hour training session, Seman said he disagrees with the statute.

“These people are not enforcing what we call rules or enforcing state statute,” he said. “They are simply providing a public safety-type service.”

Despite his recognition of its importance, Seman said he would be willing to fight the statute if it “came to blows.”

“I would challenge that in a court of law; I would challenge that under any kind of statute,” he said. “If worse came to worst, I would attempt to change that statute with the Legislature.”

Associate athletics director for facilities and events Scott Ellison said to his knowledge the Gustavus group only ushers at the Metrodome.

“Avalon knows they need to provide trained staff for pat downs,” he said. “It’s a legal liability issue.”

American Security, another local security firm, provides its services at a number of events, but does not use employees on a temporary basis, executive vice president Richard Kohl said.

“It’s very difficult to use temporary people that way,” he said. “You’d never get them cleared in time to the state agencies.”

Aside from the lack of training, Kohl said accountability is another issue with Avalon’s practices.

“You get so far removed from any accountability as to the person’s status,” he said. “As a license holder, the presumption is you will do all the things necessary to ensure the individuals perform in a manner that’s good for the public safety.”

Ultimately, Kohl said it is not until something goes wrong that attention is brought to an issue like this.

“It’s only when something goes terrible that people make the action,” he said. “When there’s an incident, that’s often what sparks a change.”