So, typically, you feel safer when you know security guards will detect weapons on people entering a building they’re assigned to protect, right? It’s hard to have that kind of peace of mind with District schools and offices. Last year, the District fired security contractor Hawk One, which had a four-year record of poor supervision, inadequate training, ineffectiveness, and “fraternizing with students.” To replace Hawk One’s 200 guards, D.C. hired two firms on one-year contracts totaling $22.1 million.
But one of them – U.S.Security Associates, and its minority subcontractor Watkins Security – might be just as bad. In May, the company’s guards failed eight “penetration tests” conducted by the District’s Department of Real Estate Services, allowing weapons to slip past undetected. Management sent an irate letter to employees, who received further training; there were no additional infractions in June. Attorney General Peter Nickleshas said the District is satisfied with the company’s progress, and unlikely to terminate the contract.
The City Council isn’t having it. Last Tuesday, all 13 members sent a letter to the Office of Contracting and Procurement demanding that the contract be yanked and rebid immediately. In addition to security failures, the letter says, U.S. Security Associates has faced two discrimination lawsuits from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a $2.5 million jury verdict for sexual harassment and retaliation, and extensive wage and hour litigation. Labor-friendly Council member Phil Mendelson tells Housing Complex that Watkins and U.S. Security Associates has been “hostile” to picking up the collective bargaining agreements they inherited from the original contract.
With security contractors like these, who needs criminals?
Council to Mayor: What’s it Take to Get a Competent Security Company? was originally published by Washington City Paper on Aug 24, 2010