Private security guards play key roles post-9/11

Source: Dennis Wagner, The Arizona Republic, Jan. 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Forget the image of the pot-bellied security guard, asleep with a newspaper in his lap and doughnut crumbs on his chin. Post-Sept. 11, the old rental cop in many cases has been replaced by security officers who are screened, licensed, trained and equipped better than their quaint predecessors. Homeland defense experts, such as former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy, say the enhanced professionalism is critical because the private-security industry defends more than three-fourths of the nation’s most likely terrorism targets.

……. Private officers are defending power plants, oil refineries, financial centers, computer systems, dams, malls, railroad lines and other prospective terrorism targets. They are responsible for millions of lives and billions of dollars in assets. And they are most likely to be first on the scene in major disasters.

…..Worldwide, private-security company revenues have been estimated at $100 billion by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The institute, which studies issues involving worldwide security, estimates the industry income will double by 2010.

….. The nation’s security companies employ 1.5 million people and spend $52 billion per year, compared with public police agencies that have 600,000 workers and spend $30 billion,according to James Pastor, author of The Privatization of Police in America. Because government officers are more expensive, Pastor sees private guards rapidly absorbing roles once held by public peace officers, protecting stores and neighborhoods.

Halliburton Cited in Iraq Contamination

Source: LARRY MARGASAK, The Associated Press, Monday, January 23, 2006; 4:12 AM

WASHINGTON — Water supplied to a U.S. base in Iraq was contaminated and the contractor in charge, Halliburton, failed to tell troops and civilians at the facility, according to internal documents from the company and interviews with former Halliburton officials. Although the allegations came from Halliburton’s own water quality experts, the company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney denied there was a contamination problem at Camp Junction City, in Ramadi.

W-2 contractor shuffle continues / Some worry clients, employees will suffer

Source: STEVE SCHULTZE, Journal Sentinel (WI), Jan. 23, 2006

When the Milwaukee Center For Independence backed away from its $10.4 million state contract to run Wisconsin Works welfare reform programs in part of Milwaukee late last year, it set off a chaotic musical-chairs game of changes that hasn’t stopped. The main contractor for W-2 job training will switch again on the city’s near north and northwest sides – for the third time in three years – with the last-minute substitution of a Denver-based firm. That means that some of the 30 subcontractors that have done much of the work also will likely change, triggering layoffs and uncertainty for those workers. And although state officials insist that no clients will be shortchanged during yet another transition, advocates fear some poverty-stricken W-2 clients will get neglected.

World crisscrossed by private roads

Source: KEITH BENMAN, Northwest Indiana Times, Jan 23, 2006

There are no toll booths on 407 ETR, an all-electronic private toll road north of Toronto. Electronic sensors and video cameras log in cars and trucks as they zip on the 67-mile expressway. Tolls are paid later, online or by mail. Advertised as the “world’s smartest highway,” the six-lane expressway just 500 miles from Northwest Indiana is a case study in both the promise and perils of toll road privatization. 407 ETR allows commuters to avoid one of North America’s busiest truck routes and has seen $900 million in additional investment under private operation. “Our reputation is still growing,” said Dale Albers, a spokesman for operator 407 International Inc. “If you need to save time, go with us.” But the road has led to courtroom collisions between the Ontario provincial government and 407 International. The two have butted heads over toll increases and toll enforcement.

County draws line between itself, Taser

Source: Andria Simmons, Gwinnett Daily Post (GA), 01/20/2006

LAWRENCEVILLE — Gwinnett County officials have consistently stood behind the company they purchase Taser stun guns from and the county’s contracted medical provider for the jail in the face of civil lawsuits. That is, until this week. It appears Gwinnett is trying to distance itself from both companies, according to a cross claim filed this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The cross claim was filed against Taser International and Prison Health Services in the wrongful death lawsuit of a former county inmate, Frederick Jerome Williams. The county now says one or both of those companies — not Gwinnett — should have to pay if monetary damages are awarded in the Williams case, especially if the judge finds Williams died because of improper medical care or Tasers.

Related article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution: Medical provider may lose contract / Sheriff mulls firing firm in wake of inmate’s death

Sanitation workers threaten strike

Source: by Marcus Moore, Maryland Gazette, Jan 20, 2006

Nearly 100 Waste Management employees claim that the $13 billion Texas company wants to reduce their wages and eliminate their pension plan. Union officials said this week that if Waste Management does not back off its stance and submit a new contract proposal, then the employees, working from the Temple Hills branch, could go on strike.

Allied Waste trashed over poor service

By Dana Yates, San Mateo Daily Journal (CA), Jan 20, 2006

San Carlos resident Jan Smith doesn’t think it should take a college degree to take out the garbage, but every Monday she and her neighbors worry they’ll do something wrong and Allied Waste employees won’t pick up their trash or recycling. Garbage workers regularly pass up her and her neighbor’s garbage cans and recycling bins. During the recent rains, she placed recyclable paper in a cardboard box before putting it in the wet recycle bin. The garbage workers took the paper and threw the recyclable cardboard box in front of her house. In other cases, residents from Burlingame through Palo Alto are reporting missed and late pick ups. …. The main issue was Allied Waste’s lack of customer service and nearly 700 missed pick ups last year that were not corrected within 24 hours of a customer complaint. The company received 9,558 missed pick-up complaints last year. Of those, approximately 670 were not cleared within 24 hours, according to a report conducted by SBWMA. Allied Waste isn’t supposed to have more than 180 missed pick ups per year. Anymore than that can result in fines, according to the garbage contract renewed last year.

Investigation questions care at jail

Source: JOHN GHIRARDINI, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA), 01/19/06

Jail inmate Harriet Washington was the victim of a confused and clumsy medical response when she died in front of her cellmates, concluded a Gwinnett Sheriff’s Department investigation released Wednesday. ……The report raises questions, however, about the performance of Prison Health Services, the Tennessee-based company contracted to care for Gwinnett inmates. Deputies had urged that Washington be taken to the hospital, to no avail, the report states. ….. The county has a $4.8 million annual contract with Prison Health Services, which was renewed in September.

Private garbage collection begins

Source: James D. Wolf Jr, Chicago Tribune (IL), January 18, 2006

CALUMET CITY — The city’s privately contracted trash collection system began this week, but officials are hoping residents won’t see any difference from the service long provided by the city. Waste Management will pick up garbage on the same schedule and locations as the previous municipal service. …… Officials estimate Calumet City will save $6.1 million during the 5-year contract. Waste Management has said it would hire many of the city workers who lost their jobs in the move.

Crist urged to warn workers / Personnel data may have gone overseas

Source: By Bill Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat (FL), Jan 18, 2006

Lawyers for state employees urged Attorney General Charlie Crist’s office Tuesday to make Convergys warn tens of thousands of state workers that their confidential personnel data – including Social Security and bank-routing numbers – may have been illegally sent to computer companies in India, China and Barbados. “When you close the barn door after the horse has escaped, that horse is personally identifiable data for thousands of state employees and their families,” said Alma Gonzalez, special counsel for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We’ve got to catch that horse.” …. People First is Gov. Jeb Bush’s biggest privatization project – a $350 million, nine-year contract for Convergys to provide online personnel services. The system has been haunted by big and small glitches for three years, but the Department of Management Services has recently said it is running much better.