Housing Complex

Council to Mayor: What’s it Take to Get a Competent Security Company?

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 Nickles has 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 Councilmember 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?

  • Rick Mangus

    STOP hiring a company based solely based on it minority ownership status and stick to competence! I've been in many District building and I have encountered overweight men and women, who's ONLY goal of the day is how many 'Ho Ho' they can consume! The rest of them have an I.Q. of a slug and the personality of a piece of concrete!

  • Nat Steven

    Let me get this straight....it cost the DC tax payers $110,000 (salary, benefits, admin, etc.) for each security guard for one year? And, they are working only during the school year? Come on Councilmembers and Mayor. You can work to do a better job for all of us to get better quality for a reasonable wage.

  • http://www.ceousa.org Roger Clegg

    Rick is right to say that race or ethnicity should not be considered in deciding who gets awarded a contract. It's fine to make sure contracting programs are open to all, that bidding opportunities are widely publicized beforehand, and that no one gets discriminated against because of skin color or national origin. But that means no preferences because of skin color or what country your ancestors came from either--whether it's labeled a "set-aside," a "quota," or a "goal," since they all end up amounting to the same thing. Such discrimination is unfair and divisive; it costs the taxpayers money to award a contract to someone other than the lowest bidder; and it's almost always illegal—indeed, unconstitutional—to boot (see 42 U.S.C. section 1981 and this model brief: http://community.pacificlegal.org/Page.aspx?pid=1342 ). Those who insist on engaging in such discrimination deserve to be sued, and they will lose.

  • Andrew

    This is only an issue because SEIU wants the District to fire the contractor and hire a security company they already represent. Shame on the Council for going along with it.

  • Rick Mangus

    SEIU is a criminal enterprise!

  • crin

    You should see the "guards" at 1100 4th St SW. One or two work diligently. The other 6 hang out outside "directing traffic" at a pedestrian crossing and opening the doors for the ladies. Ridiculous.

  • http://google Nathaniel

    It is obvious that US