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.