We're all in this together

     Even before 9/11 changed the way those charged with keeping the peace looked at security, public-private partnerships were starting to blossom and grow. Now, with teamwork being a critical component of national as well as individual security, the public safety community combines forces with the private security industry on a more frequent basis. And working together is providing tangible benefits to everyone, including the taxpayer.

     One of the first efforts to see the benefits from the partnering of the public and private sectors can be found in a study sponsored by the Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice. One published statement about the venture says it all: "When law enforcement agencies and private security organizations work together, pooling their own particular strengths, the result often exceeds what either party could accomplish alone. Such partnerships pay rich dividends for police, businesses and the public. Cooperation in resources and information sharing, and joint planning and operations may lead to more comprehensive and efficient responses to crime, disasters and terrorism."

     Public-private partnering with security companies is not a new thing, but it has become a better thing. The following article takes a look at a couple of the companies that are making it their business to work with law enforcement agencies, and how those efforts are presently working.

Higher education

     AlliedBarton Security Services, an enormous company that covers industries ranging from higher education to petrochemical, commercial real estate, financial institutions, health care services and manufacturing among others, makes working with criminal justice agencies a top priority. There's a good reason for this — company officials say not only does forging a coalition with one another work, but it offers the public a higher standard of safety.

     Glenn Rosenburg, vice president of higher education for AlliedBarton, says the company's philosophy is to "work with the police department to supplement them, not supplant them. We off-load a lot of routine tasks associated with everyday policing."

     Rounding out a campus police department at a college or university is right up AlliedBarton's alley, according to Rosenburg, and he sells their services as a cost-effective alternative to additional sworn campus police. He says many large, research-oriented universities have a private component in their campus security and some of AlliedBarton's clients include Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Penn and Duke. Many state universities are following their lead and opting for augmenting their forces through private companies.

     In the crystal light of hindsight during the days after the terrible and tragic Virginia Tech shootings, it is clear that colleges and universities can no longer consider security a "business as usual" service they routinely provide. Times change and so do threat levels. For university officials across the country, pumping up the security level may very well mean adding resources using a private contractor to cover locations where none existed before.

     One of the services private companies like AlliedBarton provides includes non-sworn access control. This includes access to the campus in general, to specific buildings such as media centers, administrative offices and laboratories, as well as dormitories and student housing — a prime concern among parents of college-bound students. Private security or contracted services now handles many of these details — even ones that traditionally went to grad students or upperclassmen, like monitoring the front desk in residence halls.

     Other services companies like AlliedBarton provide include campus patrol, transport services, escorts, working lock-outs, checking doors to make certain they are closed and locked, monitoring alarms and standing fire watches. With some of the major grunt work out of the way, campus police can better focus on more detailed follow-ups, investigations, detective work, crime prevention (although private security also focuses on many aspects of crime prevention) and taking cases to court.

     Rosenburg says the company's officers are well-trained, highly motivated and responsible. "Trust is built from experience. Our responsibilities are clearly articulated and we have the capacity to do the job."

     The company trains its officers to the specific demands of each program. "We bring industry-specific training programs that are tailored to fit the institution," Rosenburg says.

After the storm

     Industry giant Day & Zimmermann Security Services also works a school beat — one of the toughest in the country — that of the New Orleans School District.

     Thrown into disarray by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans schools have been struggling with everything from lack of facilities to abandoned children. Mike Cooley, vice president of operations for Day & Zimmermann, and Michael Guidry, founder and CEO of The Guidry Group, an "international consultancy specializing in security risk auditing and management," talked to Law Enforcement Technology about their association with the New Orleans schools and that city's police department.

     Guidry says his company became involved with the project when it received a call from the Louisiana governor's office stating a need for inside security when the schools reopened. Many of the students being served by the district had not been in school for a long time due to the effects of the hurricane. Some of those kids had lost their parents to the storm. Others had been abandoned by theirs. The school population would be a mixture like none the system had ever before served.

     "There were a lot of different issues," Guidry says, summing up the situation.

     The New Orleans Police Department also faced many challenges. "They were completely undermanned and over-tasked," Guidry says. His job — and the job of Day & Zimmermann (Guidry chose the firm to provide the guards for the project) — was to make it work no matter what. One of the most important aspects would be to smooth the interface between the guards and law enforcement, while fully recognizing the parameters of the task at hand.

     The job started in an atmosphere of flux and confusion. The school district had a monumental task ahead of it in that not only did it confront infrastructure, equipment and personnel issues, but also children facing enormous upheaval and challenges all their own.

     Guidry says often the company's biggest hurdle is that the client sometimes wants more than a security officer can give. "They think we have the same training capabilities (as law enforcement)," he says. Although security officers are now better trained than at any time in previous history, the training they receive complements the scope of their jobs. They are on school campuses in New Orleans to provide safety, security, accountability and back-up for an already thin and overworked law enforcement presence.

     School campuses, especially in the larger cities, are hot zone targets for drugs and violence. School system administrators must supplement sworn officers — who are in short supply in most municipalities anyway — with private security. And because of the high visibility of campus incidents, security companies are making sure they put their best-trained foot forward, and not only because they want to do a good job, but because the challenges are more complex. "We simply have a more violent society," Guidry says.

     Cooley agrees the level of violence in the school system is one of the company's biggest concerns. He says Day & Zimmermann's officers are trained to deal properly with these types of incidents. "In fights, (including) gang fights, they tend to be in the middle of it," he notes.

     Students at the schools enter through metal detectors operated by Day & Zimmermann officers. Security officers search for knives, guns and drugs. Police augment the security forces whenever incidents escalate to criminal offenses for which an arrest would not be unreasonable.

     And that's not all they are up against. Robert Moore, Day & Zimmermann district manager in New Orleans, says security also works proactively, as in one recent case where his company's officers discovered students had secreted weapons in holes dug just outside the school grounds.

     "The discipline that is not happening (in their home lives) is happening in the school system," Moore says. And much of that discipline is coming from well-trained private security — not the already-stretched-too-thin police department.

What police say

     Chief Dan McDevitt, past chairman of the Public/Private Liaison Committee for the Illinois Chiefs of Police, and chief of the Lansing (Illinois) Police Department says the value of law enforcement agencies working with private security firms can neither be overlooked nor underestimated.

     In Israel, terrorism threats are routinely thwarted by private security firms. "These are, in fact, first responders at the facility where the threat happens," McDevitt says.

     He also believes police should adjust their general attitudes toward private security use and take advantage of the relatively inexpensive way law enforcement can use private security to ease the burden of staff shortages and increased responsibility impacting most agencies — large cities in particular.

     He points to gated communities with their own privately contracted security as a way for police to shrug off a bit of their responsibilities without neglecting the public welfare, allowing them to focus on issues that require a higher level of skill. "[Security] mans the gates, checks who goes in and out, and patrol officers drive around in marked cars," he says. "That's the future."

     Private security, he says, will be doing things always considered in the purview of sworn officers — particularly mundane tasks that require lesser skills. He predicts security officers will be taking reports, handling some court duties, transporting prisoners and performing other tasks on a routine basis.

     For example, says McDevitt, if a prisoner currently in his department's custody claims an illness, an officer must be detached from other duty to transport the individual to the hospital, provide security while the prisoner is treated and, if the prisoner should be hospitalized, must be assigned to remain with the prisoner the entire time. McDevitt says a private security officer could pull the same duty as efficiently as a sworn officer without busting a hole in the department's budget.

     John Sexton, who has served as a sworn officer in both the United States and his native Ireland, sees both sides of the issue. Sexton now heads his own company, Sexton Executive Security. He says police need to rethink their attitude toward the private sector.

     "What many of us do, including myself, is hang up our shields and jump right into the private sector," he says. "I don't hear any bad mouthing coming from ex-cops who have made the jump. Ex-cops don't become chiropractors or dentists. They go into security."

     He's right. Many of the top administrators of private companies, both local and global, have credentials that reflect wide and varied backgrounds in law enforcement. Local police chiefs and deputies, state troopers, retired FBI and Secret Service, Interpol — you name it, someone out there has covered that beat.

     Sexton says some countries, such as India, use increasing numbers of private security officers in both the country's day-to-day security and as stopping points for terrorist activity. "What a wonderful resource we can be for government. All these extra guys on the street, while police run all over answering calls for service," Sexton says. "They could be standing next to or guarding an important building, watching for terrorist activity. They know what to look for."

     McDevitt agrees with Sexton that government must look to the private sector for future needs. Cost effectiveness combined with well-trained, bonded officers can help bridge the gap between budget shortfalls and delivering the level of service the taxpayers expect.

     "Why not?" asks McDevitt. And he has a good point. There really are no good reasons to fail to explore all options. The days of the Barney Fife-like stereotypical "rent-a-cop" — while not completely fiction — are fast fading. In his place are well-trained personnel who take their jobs seriously, as well as supervisors who most often bring serious skills to the table.

Building formal coalitions in the past and present

     Back in the early 1980s, the Dallas (Texas) Police Department started an innovative program known as LEAPS (Law Enforcement and Private Security). Governed by a board of top-level security officials and a Dallas Police Department official, with another officer acting as coordinator, the focus of LEAPS was to promote crime prevention and promulgate cooperation between law enforcement and private security. What it really did was put more eyes on the streets in a way that provided maximum benefits for the public with as little investment of public dollars as possible.

     Here is what the LEAPS Web site (www.leaps.us/index.html) says about its efforts: "By utilizing the additional eyes and ears of the private security industry, the citizens of Dallas are afforded the opportunity to benefit from an additional 10 to 15,000 trained security personnel who are working to reduce criminal activity and misconduct.

     "Since its inception in 1984, LEAPS has grown locally and has expanded throughout the United States. LEAPS is gaining recognition globally and offers support for any group seeking to establish a LEAPS program locally."

     LEAPS also uses an innovative certification program that more closely parallels the training of law enforcement officers, ramping up the value and professionalism of private security officers certified by LEAPS. Among the courses offered through LEAPS are anger diffusion, homeland security and crime scene response.

     In crime scene response, for example, security officers are taught to properly secure and preserve a scene to prevent the tainting or removal of evidence. That helps the responding officers, victims and taxpayers by ensuring cases headed to court do so with the very best evidence possible.

     And LEAPS is not the only public/private coalition that has been out there over the past few decades. New York City initiated APPL — Area Police/Private Security Liaison — formed in 1986 to enhance cooperation between police and private security and facilitate the exchange of information.

     Although APPL and many other cooperative efforts predate the events of 9/11, they evolved into good foundations upon which to base ongoing anti-terrorism operations. With thousands of better-trained and increasingly savvy security guards partnering with law enforcement, some of the heavy lifting required of sworn officers can be shared, lessening the burden on the overtaxed budgets, making it a win-win.

     New York City and Dallas are not alone. Here's a sampling of other programs that have evolved:

     Virginia Police and Private Security Alliance was established in 1992 by a coalition of the Fairfax and Arlington counties (Virginia) police departments, Mobil Corporation and private security companies. VAPPSA works toward mutual goals and information sharing. Participants in the private sector come from "retail, corporate, alarm industry and investigations/guard services" according to the Fairfax County Police Department's Web site.

     Washington Law Enforcement Executive Forum (WLEEF) is also a combination of law enforcement and private security. This organization held its first meeting in 1980. Its mission is "to promote public safety and security through public and private partnerships." More information can be found at www.waspc.org (Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs).

     AMHTF (Austin Metro High Tech Foundation) was founded in the mid-1990s by a group of security managers. They teamed with local area law enforcement to combat high-tech crime based on a model created in San Jose, California.

Loading