By DIANE TURNER-HURNS
Journal & Topics Reporter
Not only did participants in the new Rosemont Citizens Public Safety Academy walk through tunnels, dressing rooms, stages and secret doorways at major Rosemont venues last week, but they learned how hundreds of local officers work when it comes to security, celebrity and fan safety, managing fireworks, holding cells and more.
The free academy with 10 participant openings began Sept. 14 at police headquarters. One must either live or work in Rosemont to participate in the weekly class that runs through Dec. 7.
Since it began, the class has learned the dangers of traffic stops, crisis management and fire fighting. Upcoming topics include K-9 training, crowd control and defensive tactics, SWAT team work, evidence gathering and more. The last Rosemont citizens academy was held in 2006.
Wednesday (Oct. 5), Rosemont Bureau of Support Services officials presented the ins and outs of the village’s entertainment operations from a police standpoint. Officer Frank Carrillo provided an extensive overview.
“It’s different for us than many other cities and towns, because the village owns most of the venues such as the convention center, the theater, MB Park, the arena, the Ballpark and the Dome,” Carrillo said. “We work all the venues. For instance, we are also responsible not only for the safety at MB Park during events, but also for the fireworks that go off during the summer’s Rock in the Park concerts.”
Fire safety experts set up on top of the MB Financial Park entertainment district garage for fireworks shows, he explained. The garage roof gets closed off to the public. Detective Joe Balogh is one of those fire safety experts, Carrillo added. Balogh is also a police academy leader.
“Venues in Rosemont can serve alcohol until 4 a.m.,” Carrillo said. “We have some tough moments getting people to go home after that time. Those that are problematic are put in the MB Park holding area.” The holding area can fit up to seven people at one time.
Academy participants walked through the well-equipped holding area. There were benches equipped with pink handcuffs (for Breast Cancer Awareness Month), red security jackets, bikes, desks, medical kits and more.
“During events and through the morning hours this room is always manned,” Carrillo said. “For example, sometimes someone in here could be very drunk and intent on hurting themselves, such as knocking his or her head against a wall, so we must have someone here to prevent that.
“We are trained in emergency management services,” Carrillo said. “We have staff paramedics at all venues and fire inspectors. Usually at MB Park we will have about 22 outside agency officers also working. We usually deter fights outside of bars.”
Each bar, restaurant and venue is responsible for their own bouncers and keeping peace in their own place, Carrillo continued. “However, let’s say someone won’t leave MB Park and says they want to finish their beer in the park. Well, since the village owns the venue we can arrest them for trespassing.”
Times are changing, Carrillo and Sgt. Lyle Richmond told the group. Demand for public safety personnel has gone up as the village grows.
“That’s why we not only turn to our Rosemont Auxiliary trained staff of more than 200 part-time officers to support our full-time Rosemont Public Safety staff of 85, but at times when the need is great we will reach out to nearby police departments for manpower,” Carrillo said.
Police from Des Plaines, Mount Prospect, Park Ridge, Schiller Park and more are called upon when the need is there for support for a major event, such as the 11-day series of Garth Brooks concerts in 2015, or even last weekend for the Kanye West concert.
“It’’s not unusual for us to talk with the artists before they come to town. We want to make sure we provide them with the security they need,” Public Safety Chief Donald E. Stephens III said. “They trust us. We are unique in that we not only provide security for the venues, but that we own them.
We have had no issues, not like in the past.” West’s management had called Rosemont, asking about safety and security in light of his wife’s recent reported theft of jewels from a Paris hotel.
Officials said in the 1980s, fist fights were not an uncommon occurrence at certain arena events. “It was crazy,” Stephens said recalling working those events. Fights don’t happen much now, they said. What’s new for Rosemont are security wands and metal detectors.
“Sure, it’s new and people have to wait in line, but this is for everyone’s safety. Most people are polite and understand this,” Carrillo said.
Rosemont maintains an extensive video monitoring system over events at all of its venues. Officers monitor the cameras and can prevent a possible “negative event,” Richmond said.
Hopping into the shuttle bus, the class headed to Rosemont Theater and Allstate Arena.
“Many times celebrities freely walk over to their waiting fans and talk to people and sign autographs,” theater Director of Operations Ed Balogh told the group. “However, if we know that will jeopardize their safety, we suggest not doing that, such as we did for Justin Bieber.”
The theater has a large dressing area for artists, dressing rooms and a hallway of stars, or photos of artists that have performed at the 4,300-seat venue that opened in 1995.
“We are always busy,” Balogh said. “For instance in May and June of this year we were host to 23 different graduations and several corporate meetings including for US Foods and Discover Card.”
The group then drove around the Donald E. Stephens (DES) Convention Center. There, 400 video cameras, keeping watch over the facility, are constantly monitored.
Next, the group entered Allstate Arena on Lunt Avenue through an underground tunnel. The tunnel’s main entrance is across the street through the Skywatch room, where artists and show participants usually prepare to perform.
The massive tunnel is where trucks and circus animals usually enter the arena. The arena holding area is at the end to the right as is the emergency medical services area.
“We man the outside and inside of the arena and provide fire protection and paramedics,” Carrillo said. “As a matter of fact, one time last year a strange thing happened.
“It was part of the WWE wrestling event and a wrestler in the ring went down saying he had hurt his neck. The Rosemont EMS crew ran up to help and remove him from the ring to go to the hospital. The audience just kept laughing and clapping thinking we were part of the show,” Carrillo said. “He had broken a bone in his neck, I believe. But he’s OK.”
Seventy security cameras monitor the arena.
During arena events, Rosemont officers also help with traffic flow and pedestrian safety at all major intersections near the venue by controlling traffic lights.
Participants asked about the venues and procedures. About half of them work in Rosemont and the others live in the village. Participants include Jose Cisneros, Joelh Calixto, Jacob Pagan, Marleny Agudelo, Michele Agudelo, Yesemia Meraz and Mary Smith.
Four people in the class asked for auxiliary officer applications at the end of the night.
“That’s great,” Carrillo said. “We have an extensive responsibility here in the village and it’s growing everyday.”