Crowd Management Services aid DPS and police at large venues

A common scene at many University athletic events, including Thursday night’s football game at Autzen Stadium, is teams of blue-shirted security staff checking tickets, scanning student identifications and searching bags for contraband like alcohol, weapons and drugs. In extreme instances, these “blue shirts” can be found going through the stands detaining spectators and ejecting them from games with law enforcement assistance.

These individuals employed by the University for security purposes belong to a sub-company called Crowd Management Services, or CMS. CMS belongs to a larger parent company called Starplex Corporation.

“We get a lot of people who say, ‘You can’t touch me,’ ‘You don’t have the authority,’ ‘You’re not a police officer’ — and that’s really just a myth,” said Starplex CMS Director of Operations Randy Scott. “We’re not police; we’re not an extension of law enforcement, but we do work alongside law enforcement. We can detain individuals, and we can make citizens arrests.”

As a licensed private security firm, CMS personnel under Oregon state law must undergo at least two four-hour classes provided at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem. In addition, CMS provides an additional 8 hours of training for its potential employees who all must undergo background checks. Private security firms like CMS are governed under Oregon State regulations found in Chapter No. 259 of the Oregon Administrative Rules.

As a response to the University’s inability to manage and dictate security concerns at large events like football games with Department of Public Safety and law enforcement agencies alone, CMS has been contracted to provide services like checking tickets, crowd control and property watches.  

When approached with questions about their jobs and backgrounds, individual CMS employees declined to comment and forwarded all inquiries to their management.

Scott said that for the typical home football game, Starplex CMS provides 400 individuals. In addition to stadium duties, they also help to manage traffic and perform other parking lot duties. CMS has had held a continuous contract with the University since 1996 said University Director of Athletic Events Services Vicki Strand. The University previously held contracts with other security providers in addition to having CMS contracts, but kept coming back to CMS.  These contracts have mainly included sporting exhibitions, but have also included large public gatherings like concerts, receptions and events like Race for the Cure.

“(CMS) is good at being able to work with a lot of the last-minute changes we request,” Strand said. “They work not just in conjunction with the University but also with police and law enforcement and DPS.”

Strand also said that CMS is the first line escalation of force in stadium security matters.

“Usually the first contact is CMS, and if they can handle that it’s fine. If not, they’ll contact someone like DPS,” she said.

Strand said that the University is happy with the service CMS provides and has recommended it to other universities and organizations in need of security. Strand also said CMS is currently in the second year of a three-year contract with the University, but she would not reveal the financial or monetary aspects of the contract despite multiple requests from the Oregon Daily Emerald.

ASUO Event Coordinator Molly Bennison said CMS was hired out for the ASUO Street Faire earlier this month after receiving a recommendation from the athletic department. Like Strand, Bennison also failed to provide financial details concerning how much CMS was paid for these services.

CMS is actually regulated by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which is currently the same regulatory agency that monitors services such as the Department of Public Safety.

CMS personnel are not allowed to carry any kind of weapon, lethal or non-lethal. Scott said that they are allowed to carry handcuffs in some rare instances, but that this is not in their standard operating procedure.

Starplex services, along with its CMS wing, was originally started in 1979 as a company to provide security at music events and venues around the Northwest, but later spread into sports events as well while maintaining its generally regional operations. It typically likes to identify its employees as “guest service ambassadors” and not private security.

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