Washington, D.C. -- D.C. security officers who guard commercial office buildings say they support efforts to make DC safer by improving training for officers and enacting new requirements for the firms that employ them.
"Since 9/11 we are being asked to do more to keep you safe and secure, but we're not being given the training we need to do the job," says Constance Ferguson, an Allied-Barton security officer.
The D.C. Enhanced Professional Security Amendment Act of 2004, introduced
by Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham in the Council's Judiciary Committee would
raise the number of required hours of training for officers from zero to forty; require yearly refresher training for officers; prevent security companies from putting a guard on a post before a FBI background check is completed; provide whistleblower protections for guards who report unsafe conditions; fine security companies and their clients who do not adhere to new requirements.
“Since 9/11 we've trained police in DC to respond to new threats but we've overlooked a key group, private security officers," says Dr. Larry Stewart, a UDC criminal justice professor and police officer trainer. "We should make sure that these workers become a more integral part of our first responder network by standardizing their training."
"D.C. Enhanced Professional Security Amendment Act of 2004" also has the backing of SEIU Local 82, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union. SEIU is the largest union of private security officers in the country with more than 50,000 security officers and public safety professionals.
The bill faces possible opposition from private security companies and their clients, D.C. commercial real estate firms.
If the legislation were enacted, D.C. would become the fourth state to tighten requirements for the private security industry since 9/11. Security companies are now operating under new standards in Illinois, Washington and California. The New York City council will hold hearings on the issue of private security and its role in preventing future attacks in late October.
On the federal level, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives, (H.R.4830) that would direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and implement a program to enhance private sector preparedness for emergencies and disasters. A companion bill, Senate 2774, was introduced September 8th in the Senate.