More than 150,000 spectators will pour into tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby, the largest and highest-profile U.S. sporting event since last month’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. What they’ll witness is a scene that became familiar in stadiums nationwide after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: a heightened security presence that will include electronic wand searches of patrons for suspicious objects and a fresh ban on coolers in the infield of Louisville’s Churchill Downs, says USA Today. Who are the private security guards protecting the nation’s stadiums? Are they more often tasked with subduing an inebriated fan than defusing a terrorist plot in the making? How good are they?
Stadiums and entertainment venues routinely rely on low-paid, part-time security guards with spotty training and even criminal convictions, an investigation by USA Today found. Experts call it “security theater” at stadium gates — a show of uniforms and bag searches that does little to protect fans from Boston-like bomgings. After that attack in broad daylight, they say the entire system needs an overhaul, from security guard regulations to the public’s awareness at major events. “Security in the United States is all about bells and whistles,” says Rafi Sela, a former official with the Israel Defense Forces. “You see the guards standing at stadiums and bus stations. It’s not even considerable deterrence anymore.”