The Mysterious Private Police Force That’s Killing People In The Nation’s Capital

Source: Carimah Townes, ThinkProgress, August 31, 2016

Beyond DC, a handful of cities and states contract with security companies to employ special police officers who face far less scrutiny than traditional law enforcement, even though they operate almost identically. These companies establish their own standards and procedures, disciplinary measures, and managerial discretion. … Today, D.C. has 120 private companies that employ 16,580 law enforcement agents: 7,720 special officers along with 8,860 guards, stationed at apartment buildings, colleges, commercial buildings, and hospitals, compared to approximately 3,700 MPD officers in the city. Some are stationed in D.C. government buildings, including the Wilson Building, where the mayor and city council member’s offices are located. And 4,523 of those special officers are armed. … A General Order released by the MPD in 1993 says special officers function much like MPD officers in that they have the power to make arrests and carry firearms — privileges that private security guards aren’t afforded. Special officers are also allowed to use force on the properties they’re employed to oversee. … Beyond the high-profile cases, however, information about special officers’ use of force throughout the city is extremely limited. What little information is available paints a picture of an unaccountable body of agents that frequently uses abusive tactics.

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Editorial: When death comes at the hands of private security guards
Source: Washington Post, December 21, 2015

IN SEPTEMBER, a 57-year-old man allegedly wielding a knife was fatally shot by a private security guard in Union Station. In October, a 74-year-old patient at MedStar Washington Hospital Center died two days after a clash with private security guards. And last month, a 27-year-old man died after he was restrained by security guards at a Southeast apartment building. It will be up to police and prosecutors to determine if there was criminal culpability in any of the cases, but the fact of these three deaths in three months demands that D.C. officials take a serious look at how they regulate the private police forces that help patrol the city. … So the inevitable question is whether the training required and received by private security officers is sufficient. According to city officials, there are nearly 17,000 private security officers (special police and general security) affiliated with 122 security companies who staff housing projects, hospitals and other properties in the District. Some carry weapons and can make arrests after undergoing certification by the police department. Training is conducted by a third-party vendor …