Real Life Mall Cops

mall copsDoes Paul Blart: Mall Cop live? Only on the video screen, according to Mall of America's Emergency Operations Captain Heidi Buegler. She confesses to owning a DVD of the film and watching it at home with her kids on occasion, when they're not busy watching her on TLC's new series 'Mall Cops: Mall of America.' Her real-life duties as a mall security officer are far more serious -- and far more bizarre.

Sometimes, however, life imitates art. The mall cop movie 'Observe and Report,' starring Seth Rogan, featured a naked guy running around the mall -- and sure enough, one of the more difficult situations Patrol Division Manager Will Bernhjelm had to face was confronting a nude mall visitor, subduing him and getting him into a holding area while trying to keep patrons from being disturbed.

It's all in a day's work for those responsible for security the country's largest mall, located in Bloomington, Minn. With more than 500 stores, a 7-acre indoor theme park, a 1.2 million-gallon aquarium, a secondary school, a wedding chapel and huge, celebrity events in 4.2 million square feet, the Mall of America is a small city -- and needs to be protected as one. They get over 120,000 service calls per year, which is actually more than those received by the police forces in many U.S. towns.

Goofy slackers need not apply

mall copOfficer Bernhjelm explains that this is no place for bumbling slackers, as the films depict. Each officer is required to undergo 400 hours of training before being allowed to work alone. Many have EMT, CPR and first aid training, and still others have learned Krav Maga, the official self defense system of the Israeli Defense Forces. There's actually a police substation on the premises, but the mall security officers are often the first responders.

And get this: They're in constant contact with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security -- both are very impressed with the security department's handling of extreme emergency situations. If there is a shooter or some other violent threat to mall guests, store owners go immediately to the front of the store, get as many people as possible into the store, close and lock the doors, turn off the music and lights, shepherd the people into the back room and barricade them in, as far away and as secure as possible from the threat. They practice this procedure every month, except in November and December, so that everyone will be familiar with it if it ever has to be implemented. So far, it never has.

Loving the job... and finding love on the job

mall copOne of the most interesting and surprising things about mall security jobs is the fact that it's a great job for working moms, according to officer Buegler. "I've been doing this for 10 and a half years," she says. "I love working with kids, and I have lots of opportunities to do that." She admits the biggest drawback is probably the uniforms, which are "not to flattering around the hips." She acknowledges that the scheduling can be tricky, but her boss takes families into consideration -- especially Buegler's, since her husband works in Mall of America Security as well.

"We actually met on the job," she laughs. They worked a mall special events together, and gradually fell in love. Now they have four children, ages 2-13, who appreciate the special breaks they get on the amusement park rides and in other areas of the mall. "To be honest," Buegler confesses, "There are challenges to working with your husband -- especially when you outrank him. But he does completely understand when you have down days."

Bernhjelm is single, and says the job suits him perfectly at this time in his life, although he might be tempted to move on to another branch of law enforcement someday, as about 80 percent of the mall security staff does, he says. But for now, "it's challenging and rewarding, and there's something different every day." He notes that there are several different and distinct branches of mall security, including foot patrol officers who walk more than eight miles per day; bike patrol officers who ride outside in brutal in Minnesota winter weather; K9 units that include three explosives-detection dogs; and a RAM unit, which stands for Risk Assessment Management.

After finding out how qualified and dedicated these officers are, it kind of makes you want to tip your hat to them -- although they'd rather not tip their hats to you: It seems that their uniforms don't have many pockets, so officers often carry things like maps, mall facts, etc. in their hats. Ask them a tough question about the mall, and they will literally pull the answer right out of their hats.

Take a sneak peak at TLC's 'Mall Cops: Mall of America.'

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Chris Wasmundt

I can't heelp to laugh at some of the comments left by peoples assumptions of a security officers. That being said the duties of an officer vary from place to place. But the main duty is to observe and report. Not to arrest someone unless being trained to do so. Common sense will tell if you nsee someone breaking into someones car is to call the poilce asap and give a description. Don't be a hero and try to stop them cause they might have a gun or weapon. I worked at several places many high risk for terriost attacks. Airports,medicial research buildings, office buildings and more. Hardly no onepats you on the back and says thank you. Perrhaps cause theyfeel uncomfortable or had a bad experience with security. I can go on about this topic but I will leave you with one piece of advice a very simple one. Don't judge a book by its cover and do unto others as you would to yourself.

May 28 2012 at 11:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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October 11 2011 at 5:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm looking at applying for a job with MOA Security because at this point in my life, I have not attended college. My security experience, that I gained in the Marine Corps, is my most marketable skill at this point and time. It's a transition job until I graduate college. Given that the starting pay for the job is $13-$15/hr., for a job that allows me to interact with, assist, and protect the public; a job that keeps me from having to sit in a cubicle or stand in an assembly line...I think that's a pretty good gig. I do worry about the ridicule and prejudices I might face, but because of our lovely first amendment, everyone is entitled to their dumb-a$$ opinion.

I am not sure if I support the ribbons on their uniforms, but in reality, everyone is entitled to acknowledgment of their accomplishments. I've seen plenty of Marines receive awards for something that was completely unrelated to their duties and responsibilities as a Marine. They just performed an action that any citizen should be expected to do, e.g., assisting a vehicle accident victim. So, if a security officer does something above and beyond their regular duties, up to and including, saving someone's life...why not let them wear a ribbon or two? Just my two cents. Hope to see you at the mall in a few months, and regardless of your opinion of my job, I will be happy to assist you in any manner that I can.

July 21 2010 at 11:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Richard....I think I know a MORON when I see one. First off, I'd like to site that you state you're an "EX" military (not "former")....and you "was a mall cop"....Sounds to me like a TWO TIME LOSER to me...a total HAS BEEN.

Anyhow, more to my point. I live not five minutes from the MOA. I MANAGED one of the businesses at the MOA for a year after I'd retired following 30 years with a major Police Department here in Minnesota. There were times I'd called "security" at the MOA, relative to something in or near my store....and they rarely showed up. They moved like a herd of turtles.

Those of us in the know here in Minnesota talked about the forthcoming MALL COPS that were being filmed. We got a good laugh out of it...we knew most of what would be shown would have to be staged.

You missed my point though....The Bloomington Police Department has a "precinct" (if you will) in the Mall...if there is anything MAJOR going down...the REAL police are there to take control...BUT....again, I digress....MY complaint is that the DECORATIVE "CAMPAIGN" RIBBONS are a JOKE....they are an INSULT to the military....What it creates are little egomaniacal wannabe's that think they're something special. Hey, KEEP THE "COPS".....just lose the campaign ribbons!!

nuff said!!!

June 08 2010 at 8:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Steve's comment

here here

July 01 2010 at 11:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the only cops here in ny that are shit are the fat lying highway cops ( who even the working cops hate ) that sit there on the side of the highway giving out tickets to the guy they think was the one speeding out of the 20 cars passing by his radar gun. then they go to court and lie their asses off

June 08 2010 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For all of you 'Haters' degrading security officers out there.... There will be a time in your life when your caught in a situation that can't be handled by yourself alone. Wether it's a 'Security Guard' or a 'Police Officer'....You'll thank GOD they were there.

June 08 2010 at 2:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have seen occasional mall security who were armed, and some with batons. When I was in the Philippines, most of the mall and store security was armed. Banks have guards with shotguns and sidearms both, and no doubt have no fear of using them! Qustion suspects after the shooing stops. That is probably I never any trouble in any of the giant malls there in the years I'd spent over there. Robbing any place there is suicide, and should be the same here, very harsh on criminals!

June 08 2010 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

paul id like to stick around and kick good memories around for awhile but as i always say the best memories are the ones we make today,so im off to krispy kremes for a fresh box of jelly donuts and get on out to an exit for todays rush take care you nut ya hear.

June 08 2010 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joe's comment

Joe--lol--you got me on that jelly spill thing--take care--do appreciate what you do, later

June 08 2010 at 2:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
e denton


June 08 2010 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the rest of the story, police caught them on the turnpike and I got all of the jewelery back

June 08 2010 at 1:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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