Burdensom, Unnecessary, Ineffective: The New MLB Ballpark Security Protocol

By Nathan Petrashek

Rob Manfred, MLB’s recently elected commissioner, says he hasn’t heard any fan complaints about the new security policies baseball higher-ups have forced upon us this season.

Let’s change that.

In case you haven’t been to a baseball game yet this year, all fans must now endure an enhanced security screening before entering any MLB ballpark.  We have to empty our pockets (sort of, but we’ll get to that) and pass through metal detectors, in addition to the usual bag searches that have been around for a while.  Contrary to what MLB says, this is every bit the hassle it sounds like.  If you like waiting in line because a drunk in front of you forgot his keys were still in his pocket, you’ll love what MLB has brewed up for you.  Here’s a video the Brewers released that’s meant to be funny but inadvertently shows what an absolute pain in the ass this entire process is:

Without exception, every Brewers gameday staffer I have talked to has fallen all over themselves making clear the new security protocol isn’t a team mandate, but one from MLB.  The implication of these statements is pretty obvious; the team knows this is a colossal hassle on the ground, and, if it were left up to them, they wouldn’t have any of it.  But it’s out of their hands!

A savvy fan will no doubt be asking themselves how in the world these burdensome, unnecessary, and ineffective security measures came to be, if not from the teams.  The answer?  A “recent study of best security practices and MLB’s continuing work with the Department of Homeland Security to elevate and standardize initiatives across the game.”

Wow, that all sounds very official and important.  Homeland Security! Standardize initiatives!  Best practices!  Certainly there’s a good reason to make fans wait for, in some cases, hours to get inside the stadium, right?

Actually, not really.  The New York Times quoted a federal official as saying the new strategy is “not based on any direct threat, or on any sort of intelligence that might indicate stadiums will be attacked.”  In other words, there’s absolutely no reason to believe terrorists or anyone else is targeting MLB stadiums, now or in the future.  Moreover, there’s absolutely no historical precedent for an attack, whether foreign or domestic, on a ballpark.

This comports largely with common sense.  The object of terrorism is to induce fear to be used as a mechanism to achieve a set of (often political) goals.  So a typical terrorist will choose high-visibility events like the Boston Marathon or the Olympics to attack.  While I can understand and appreciate enhanced security at, say, the World Series, the need for enhanced safety protocols at a getaway afternoon game at Miller Park is puzzling and reeks of a sport that thinks too much of itself (or at least wants to pretend it’s the NFL).

And let’s talk about these “rigorous” safety protocols.  The particular metal detectors MLB utilizes leak like a sieve.  I mean, the Brewers are telling people they can leave wallets, shoes, and belts on.  If a giant metal belt buckle is not going to set it off, what’s the point?  One security expert calls the new protocol “laughable:”

The ballpark metal detectors are much more lax than the ones at an airport checkpoint. They aren’t very sensitive — people with phones and keys in their pockets are sailing through — and there are no X-ray machines. Bags get the same cursory search they’ve gotten for years. And fans wanting to avoid the detectors can opt for a “light pat-down search” instead.

A halfway competent ticketholder would have no trouble sneaking a gun into the stadium.

What’s more, the bottleneck created by the metal detectors actually makes it easier to carry out a high-casualty attack.  The fans waiting in line outside are sitting ducks for anyone with truly malicious intent.  The most that can be said about the detectors is they’ll stop the occasional fan from innocently carrying a gun or knife in the stadium – a fine goal, but hardly practical from a cost-benefit standpoint.

The only loser resulting from the new security policy is the fans, who just want to watch a baseball game.  Making it more difficult to attend a game should be the last thing on baseball’s mind.  MLB’s new security protocols are an answer in search of a problem, creating a massive hassle for fans without any real benefit.

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