I’m often asked if I felt I “sold out” when I became the Chief of Police in Birmingham, England, to be the U.S. team’s cop and appointed as the tournament referee for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
For me, I didn’t sell out. Not because I wasn’t paid a nice salary. I wouldn’t have accepted that.
I sold out because my job was to do what was in the best interests of policing and the tournament organizers, to ensure that the tournament runs smoothly and safely and that the fans are comfortable and happy.
Thwarting any illegal activity before it happens is always a challenging situation because, at its heart, a police officer has to ask themselves if they should make arrests and to use the full force of the law to enforce the law. But most importantly, those officers also want to ensure that that the proper balance is struck: keeping the fans safe and secure from any dangers and ensuring they are fully served and happy with the experience.
I believe that the volunteer protocol announced by the U.S. team and Whistling Straits will be a game-changer for policing and the fans at the Ryder Cup.
There are numerous details about the volunteer protocol including — how it will be funded and administered; the safety orientation and training; how all volunteering will receive background checks, identification and how to be ID-ready. But that’s just the beginning.
More details about what is required of each volunteer and how to achieve that will be announced in the coming weeks.
But as a group, the volunteer groups will be the building blocks that support the cohesiveness and policing of the event. They will be doing a great deal of work for a small fee for the majority of Ryder Cup volunteers who join one of the four volunteer groups, who will comprise a majority of the game’s approximately 130,000 fans.
These volunteers will staff the ticketing desk, airport check-in kiosks, shop entrances, food stands, pick-up areas, merchandise outlets, clubhouse and parking spaces.
How will the volunteers and their handlers be protected?
That’s another part of the equation for everybody involved in protecting the fans. There is an extensive vetting process for volunteers from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Like any sort of tournament, there are considerable rules and regulations and I would expect that to be in place for Whistling Straits. What’s required to pass an hour-long, criminal background check to volunteer is the same as to hire as a police officer.
I am confident that once the details are out, both the teams and fans alike can help themselves to the betterment of the security arrangements, knowing they have been vetted through years of experience in policing great events, from the men’s and women’s British Open to this summer’s European Championship soccer tournament in France.
My background goes well beyond policing. I have been the head of security at the Ryder Cup twice before, in 2008 and 2010. That experience taught me to be highly motivated, to work well with other law enforcement agencies and to understand the reasons for providing such strong security.
Having that experience was invaluable in enabling me to play a small part in this venue’s securing. And I feel this year will be no different in the Ryder Cup on home soil for the U.S. team.
I hope to be there to help everybody have a safe and enjoyable day and, when the team is playing a winning round of golf, and cheering them on, I hope to be with them, in that crowd enjoying the sportsmanship and warm hospitality that is the hallmark of Ryder Cup golf.
Our job is to give fans their money’s worth. Even if it means we’re keeping some people out who might want to cause problems.
I’m not complaining.
Capt. Darren Pugh, Chief of Police, Birmingham