District of Columbia officials have proposed additional training requirements for licensed security guards in the city, to both enhance their “real time” experience and to safeguard the public from improperly trained officers.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, left, and Police Chief Cathy Lanier, arrives for a news conference in Washington, Thursday, May 21, 2015, to discuss the mysterious slayings of a wealthy Washington family and their housekeeper. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced June 9 that new regulations were coordinated following two cases in which men died in the custody of security guards. In the first incident, two former guards at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, were indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 74-year-old patient in 2015. In the other, a special education teacher died after being taken into custody by security guards at an apartment building. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined both deaths were homicides.
“Our special police officers are often the first line of defense in an emergency. With our growing and changing community, it is critical that they have the knowledge and training to handle real-world scenarios,” Bowser said in a statement. “These proposed changes to the regulations will equip them with the skill sets they need to not only protect us, but also protect themselves from danger.”
Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier say the city’s 17,000 security guards play a crucial role in public safety and the new training will allow them to do their jobs better. Michael Quander, a Ward 8 resident, told the AFRO he worries the uptick in special officer altercations between residents and security would escalate quickly and result in more physical confrontations.
“There are a lot of old heads who spent time in lock up and could only get jobs when they got out as security officers. When these guys come in contact with teenagers, especially, they have a lot to prove,” Quander said. “These officers will not be disrespected as ‘flash light cops,’ so there should be rules they have to follow to keep a situation from becoming a physical confrontation.”
If approved by the D.C. Council, required training hours for special officers would double, from 40 to 80 hours and include more training for active shooter situations, emergency response, and negotiating hostile situations with those challenged by mental health.
According to Lanier, the 8,860 licensed security guards and 7,720 special police officers with active licenses in the District, have the arrest powers of city police and roughly 4,500 are authorized to carry firearms. Private guards protect local and federal government buildings, schools, libraries and apartment complexes. They are trained through private companies but must meet the certification requirements of the D.C. police and the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. According to the proposal, security agencies would have to pay for the costs of the training and maintain records of all training provided.
“They are saving lives and preventing crimes and doing really good security work; they are very, very necessary in supplementing the police force,” Lanier said at the press conference. “The value of our security officers should not go unnoticed.”