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In Many States, Security Guards Get Scant Training, Oversight
Forty-one states, plus the District of Columbia, license security officers, but requirements vary greatly from state to state.
At an Iowa mall, a security guard allegedly shot and killed a woman who worked at a children’s museum there. At a Kentucky distillery, a security guard accepted money from thieves to look the other way while they stole more than $100,000 in expensive whiskey. And in a Virginia hospital, a 64-year-old man suffered a serious head injury and later died after a violent altercation with a security guard.
Recent incidents like these have drawn fresh attention to the screening, training and state oversight of private security officers, and have prompted some legislators to push for stricter regulation—efforts that have been largely unsuccessful this year.
“We’ve got to feel comfortable that people who have a badge on are, in fact, trained—and trained well,” said Michigan state Sen. Darwin Booher, a Republican who sponsored a set of bills, still pending, that would update regulations on security guards in the state.
About 90 bills were introduced in state legislatures this year dealing with the licensing and training of security officers or requirements for security companies, according to Steve Amitay, director of the National Association of Security Companies (NASCO), an industry group. In recent years, similar numbers of measures have been proposed. None of this year’s bills that would have substantially toughened state requirements was enacted, Amitay said.
“In some of these states, it’s a very anti-regulatory environment and they think any additional regulation on businesses or people performing services is bad,” Amitay said. “With other folks, it’s a resource issue. For the state to start regulating an industry and requiring licenses requires initial appropriations and startup costs.”