The Department of Public Safety (DPS) personnel prepare the security of the spring concert event every April. While students attend their Thursday classes, DPS sets up barricades to guide a line for guests to enter and they prep the gym floor to keep viewers a short distance from the stage.
For many students it was more than a break from schoolwork or a regular Thursday. The concert gave them a night-out on-campus with live music, flashing lights and friends who danced by each other’s sides. For Public Safety Officers and administrators, it was a night they have prepared for a long time now, as to keep the night in control. They review their security performance at the end of the night as a way to evaluate how they handle the night and to eliminate security issues.
Going into the night of the concert, officers knew of one issue they would have at one point. They knew 2,000 tickets were sold, but not every ticket holder would make it past the main doors. This meant the small holding area in the station of the People’s Building would become overcrowded.
While most students watched The Cataracs and Big Sean perform, Public Safety Officers aligned the perimeter of the gym and the outside, to keep an eye on the crowd that continued to grow throughout the night. The officers watched the movement of the crowd to ensure security measures were taken and all guests of the concert would remain safe while in the area of the Hollinger Gym.
Officers stopped several guests who appeared visually intoxicated. They made contact with the guest first by asking for their identification. The officers talked amongst each other to note several persons to watch before they entered the gym. After they got into the heated gym, the guests may feel sick due to the heat and their dehydration. Quick Response System remained present to assist with medical attention and to help at a dehydration station.
The officers had the understanding that any guest that was intoxicated would not be permitted into the gym. They had to eliminate any problems and get guests medical attention as needed. Officers even gave chances to several guests to enter the concert while they were stopping only one guest. However, some guests who insisted and disrupted the police were arrested along with their friend, if they had consumed alcohol.
Doors of the concert opened at 7 p.m. with small groups of friends that lined up. An hour later, the line held steady and by 8:30 p.m., the line was at it longest length, which stretched back to Church Street and University Avenue. By 8:45 p.m. a rough count indicated that 1,300 people had entered the gym.
Once inside the doors of the gym, metal detectors and the University police, who monitored the machines at the entry point, met the guests. Four officers, two males and two females, monitored the entry through the metal detectors. The line was separated by gender and permitted females to enter past a female officer while males enter past a male officer. This fashion enabled a pat down if a person set-off the metal detector.
Guests got a mix of WCUR, with their members hosting the entertainment while guests waited outside. The student-run radio station played music until the opening act took over the stage and the music filled the streets as well. These guests also watched a handful of others get stopped by Public Safety officers and arrested for underage consumption. To the guests, it seemed to serve as a deterrent as to reiterate the reason why they personally did not pre-game by drinking alcohol before the concert.
Several officers were on an “arrest team” and they followed a system they developed from an arrest, to the holding area and calling parents to take their son or daughter home.
The holding area looks like the equivalent of two small closets of a traditional dorm room. It holds a table that stretches across the room with three chairs facing the table.
The holding area filled up fast. Due to an overflow, the holding area and a lobby area of the holding area, both under camera surveillance, held those who were arrested. Before Big Sean took the stage, the holding area of the Department of Public Safety held nine persons under arrest. A total of 13 concertgoers were arrested. This designated for two officers to remain at the station to make phone calls to parents and to assist those in holding.
During the concert, the arrest team made their way around the gym, including the lower floor. At this point and throughout the duration of the concert, officers removed guests who distributed the concert. The officers said they removed about six people, for reasons such as the person was physically pushing and shoving others, and some were caught smoking in the large crowd.
With eyes on the crowd, a small group of officers would take notice to the movement of those throughout the crowd. A few officers gathered together, like they prepared a sports drill, and swiftly make their way into the crowd. They approached several guests and removed them without incident and without the other guests noticing more than their presence. These guests were removed through the side doors of the gym towards D-Lot and told to leave the area. Once a person left or was removed, they could not regain entry to the concert.
When the concert concluded, personnel of Public Safety helped the crowd make their way out of the gym. A number of guests left before the encore of Big Sean, which concluded by 10:30 p.m.
After the breakdown of the barricades, the custodial staff took brooms to the floor to finish with cleanup just before 11 p.m. Officers who worked the security of the event migrated back to the police station for their debriefing discussion of the night. DPS had a full house of staff with security in the residence halls and officers on patrol of the campus, while the remaining personnel managed the security in Hollinger, which held most of the campus population on the Thursday night.
Staff said “we call it hot wash” to discuss how the security coverage at the concert performed. The lax setting allowed officers, both security and police alike, to freely discuss what went well, to suggest changes and additional information that will help their security coverage flow smoothly. Seeking more barricades for next year seemed to be the consensus among the officers.
The barricades helped guide a path for a point of the initial entry into the gym and served as the system of leading to the entrance. The officers felt that with more barricades, it would be easier to maintain the regulation of guest entry and for more control of the line. The doors to the concert opened at 7 p.m. and it took roughly two hours to get all guests inside.
Administrators gathered feedback from their officers, documented their procedures and used a Knowledge Center to store information to guide them for the event, which will occur every year. The Knowledge Center logs all the information for the night, including incident reports and the weather report. This system also allows for the department to ask other counties for materials needed for the concert, such as barricades.
Lt. Ray Stevenson, Assistant Director of Residence Hall Security, among other administrators, helped oversee the security plans for the concert. He said that each year the staff takes debriefing notes that would help format a guide for each year that follows. He described this format in comparison to making a lesson plan. He and his staff will do a similar review for their security coverage at the graduation ceremony in May.
Officers gave suggestions that may be instated
for the following concerts. One personnel member, who will put together the “after action report” said, “even if we’re doing a good job, we can always do a better job.” The staff member holds the new position of Emergency Manager and Planning Manager. This discussion builds towards the completion of the After Action Report, the staff member said.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.  

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