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Here’s how many out-of-city officers assisted Scottsdale police at the chaotic WM Phoenix Open. Are more needed?

At least a dozen law enforcement agencies sent more than 100 officers to assist Scottsdale with public safety services at this year’s WM Phoenix Open, where large crowds, soggy conditions and alcohol spelled trouble for event organizers.

Massive weekend crowds were unable to spread out on the grass banks around the course given the muddy conditions, creating such congestion that the gates were closed Saturday to afternoon ticketholders.

Alcohol fueled the heckling of players and other bad behavior during the four-day tournament.

Scottsdale police arrested a record 54 people, tripling the number from the previous year. And 211 fans were ejected from the event, which is more than twice the amount thrown out during the past two Opens. While these are still small percentages in comparison to the crowds on hand, it’s a trend organizers are hoping to reverse.

There were widespread reports of fans entering without tickets being checked or scanned, in an attempt to unclog the main entrance.

Tournament chair George Thimsen, in an interview with Golfweek Thursday, said organizers would review this year’s event as they planned next year’s tournament, and crowd size would be reviewed.

“I would say that likely there will be less people on a Friday and a Saturday at our event and that we would focus on quality over quantity,” he said.

He acknowledged “a lot of humans” at the event but did not characterize conditions as unsafe.

More: Viral videos of — let’s just say lubricated — fans at the 2024 WM Phoenix Open

“That’s because of the hard work of our first responders and law enforcement and volunteers,” he said. “There may have been some frustrated fans … But at the end of the day, I think it (closing the gates) was the right call, and it was a successful event.

“From a safety perspective, there wasn’t a lot of major issues, and we feel thankful and blessed for that.”

A fan pounds two beers together and chugs them before getting arrested near the 17th hole during the second round at the WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale.

He said, “We have, you know, our PD all over … the course and supporting throughout the tournament.” He did say he expected a stronger police presence next year, “especially from a player perspective.”

Scottsdale police coordinate efforts with other Phoenix area departments to provide security. Pro Em is the company that provides event management and security staff at the tournament.

It remains unclear what the overall total number of officers was at the event or how that stacks up to previous years, but Scottsdale Police Department spokesperson Aaron Bolin said it “was staffed very similarly to every other year we have done it.

“This event is planned so well in advance and we have a ton of historical data as we staff it each year,” Bolin said. “We do have, according to our models and according to what has worked for us in the past, adequate staffing.”

The Arizona Republic asked 14 local law enforcement agencies how many officers and other resources they provided at the Open.

Scottsdale police declined to specify. “We do not want people with bad intentions to know how many officers and resources are staffed and working at the event. We don’t discuss it for security reasons,” Sgt. Allison Sempsis said.

Peoria and Mesa police did not immediately provide an answer. But 11 other departments confirmed they sent officers to the tournament.

Tempe: Sent approximately 50 officers between Wednesday and Saturday to provide “support” for the event. The department said the number of its officers assigned this year was lower than usual because of other events.
Arizona Department of Public Safety: Sent about 30 off-duty troopers. The department was unable to provide the number of troopers it sent during previous years.
Chandler: Sent about a dozen officers to provide support on bicycles.
Surprise: Sent four bicycle officers who worked with Scottsdale’s bike team but provided no enforcement on “incidents that result in charges.”
Gilbert: Had about 12 officers on bike teams and night traffic units. The department had a more limited presence at the open than usual because of officers’ regular shifts on Thursday through Saturday.
Apache Junction: Sent six officers who assisted Scottsdale police and the private security company.
Arizona State University Police: Sent four officers from Wednesday to Saturday.
Queen Creek and Goodyear: Sent one and two dog units to the Open, respectively. Goodyear’s unit did explosive sweeps every morning.
Phoenix police and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office: Only sent deputies and officers to the “Know Your Limit” event on Friday and Saturday to highlight the effects of alcohol consumption. The agencies provided no enforcement.

Fans pack the walkway near the 10th hole during the third round of the 2024 WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. (Photo: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

The staffing models the Scottsdale department uses involve a lighter police presence on Tuesday and Wednesday for pre-tournament events, when Pro Em is mostly able to manage the crowds, Bolin said.

Thursday through Saturday is when law enforcement agencies ramp up their efforts as more fans arrive.

Bolin said security at the tournament is so well done, Scottsdale police “have outside police agencies and event coordinators actually come to our tournament, in particular, to see how we do it and how we are successful.” He noted that a team of police officers from Sweden previously had visited to learn from the Phoenix Open’s practices.

Some of the chaotic fan behavior was a matter for Pro Em security rather than the police, Bolin said. An increased police presence or different law enforcement model would not have made much of a difference when it came to constraining some of that, he said.

More: WM Phoenix Open vows ‘operational audit’ to avoid repeat of events at TPC Scottsdale

“I’m not really sure that a different staffing model would have solved any of the issues that were out there, that people are posting about, people sliding down hills, things like that. Just because something isn’t golf etiquette, or it’s … raucous behavior doesn’t necessarily mean it’s against the law.”

Reporter Sam Kmack covers Tempe, Scottsdale and Chandler. Follow him on X @KmackSam or reach him at sam.kmack@arizonarepublic.com.

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