|Apparently anyone can do your job|
|Apparently anyone can do your job|
|Written by Mark Nichols|
In an article from the Houston Chronicle that some might need to read twice in order to believe it, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has trained the first of what he expects will be hundreds of private security guards who have signed up to “help” deputies apprehend dangerous fugitives, work crime scenes and a wide array of other tasks normally performed by certified cops.
Needless to say officials with the county's largest deputy's union are furious. Police association leaders are questioning whether Harris County could face legal liability for possible misconduct by the private security guards because of the so-called training.
What does the training involve? Everything you can fit into an eight-hour class.
Garcia announced that he was hiring security guards to do police work at the sheriff's office training academy near Humble. That where the first 60 private security guards recently underwent an eight-hour course in note-taking, crime-scene preservation, threat detection and dispute resolution. The sheriff said he hopes to have 200 to 300 security officers on board by year's end.
"It makes sense that we develop a greater coordination between law enforcement and private security so that it ultimately enhances public safety out in the community," Garcia told reporters at the press conference. “Because these security professionals are already working in some of the toughest neighborhood and toughest areas, it makes sense."
Robert Goerlitz, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization isn’t buying it.
"This is nothing but a smoke and mirrors play," Goerlitz said. "It's basically a continuing education course for security guards - we're adding to their education on the county dime."
The sheriff said the security officers, and the companies they work for are thoroughly screened and subjected to background checks.
The civilians are not being deputized or given “enhanced” police powers. Garcia said the department will never have the number of officers it needs so he’s turned to 25,000 local security officers for assistance.
There is tremendous money to be made and saved by replacing certified peace officers with security guards and there’s an enormous push in Washington D.C to get people comfortable with the idea that anyone with eight hours of training can do the job.
Larry Karson, a criminal justice instructor at the University of Houston-Downtown thinks the partnership has a "great potential" to help criminal investigations.
"The sheriff's office is trying to develop a partnership with the private industry who are the first responders in many cases to crimes on private property," said Karson, who was also a federal law enforcement official. "And if they're trained not to contaminate a crime scene when they discover one, it allows the sheriff's investigators to better prosecute the case."
Of course if the security guards or they’re training aren’t sufficient, they could just as easily contaminate a scene thereby making a successful conviction impossible.
If terrorists attacked a Houston refinery, security guards would likely be the first to respond Karson said. So training them how to preserve evidence and protect the crime scene would be crucial to any investigation.
Bob Burt, the past president of the Associated Security Services and Investigators for the State of Texas, said Dallas County has operated a similar program since 1995. Garcia's program differs by including in-house corporate security officers.
"Our client base … is very much on board," Burt said, "because they recognize we are increasing our professionalism, our observation skills, in an effort to help law enforcement but certainly not to replace law enforcement."
The security guards will receive a certificate and a uniform pin to show they were trained by the sheriff's office according to Sheriff’s spokeswoman Christina Garza.
It looks increasingly likely that someday one of us will be walking with our grandchildren through the National Law Enforcement Museum when little Billy or Susie will stop and look up at a statue of a uniformed police officer.
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