Lax oversight of security guards by Ohio agency in charge?
Some in industry want more regulation
- By: Hagit Limor
- Produced by Phil Drechsler
You see them at the malls, at your bank, most likely at your office. They’re security guards, there to watch over you. But who’s watching over them?
Some longtime security industry professionals say the state of Ohio has put off reforms for 20 years, even though some within the business itself are calling for greater regulation. While police officers undergo constant monitoring, security guards undergo background criminal checks only when they’re first hired by a security guard company. If they commit crimes after their hire, their company has no way of knowing unless it conducts its own checks. The state doesn’t require it to do so. “I’ve had employees with our company that had been with us for 40 years and the way the law is now, they get one background check,” said Gregg Hollenbaugh who owns Cal Crim Inc., a local security guard company.
You wouldn’t expect a business owner to ask for greater regulation, but Hollenbaugh says it would keep people and businesses safer. An I-Team check found hundreds of cases of security guards in Ohio violating regulations, rules and laws. We found stories nationwide about security guards arrested for burglary, rape, assault and other crimes. Here in the Tri-State, police arrested Charles Conard, a security guard at Deveroes clothing store for selling drugs outside the store at the corner of McMillan and Gilbert. Police say he was packing his gun and a security guard badge during the sales.
Hollenbaugh says not only does the state not require additional criminal checks after hire, allowing guards who commit crimes to skate under the radar, but it doesn’t require training of any guards unless they’re armed. Many are not, at least not officially. "I feel that the public has a misconception when they see a guard because they think that if you got somebody in uniform that they have some training and they know what they’re doing,” said Hollenbaugh. He says that’s not necessarily true and that can put the public in danger. Mike Brown Senior, a former Lincoln Heights police officer for 15 years, agrees. He now serves as a guard at a public library, working for Cal Crim. He says training is imperative for guards to know how to react to any situation. “I’m looking out for my safety and the company’s and the people out here, because you never know what might happen.”
“You’re putting somebody out there that might not have any idea of what he’s supposed to be doing or what the laws are," said Hollenbaugh. He says that could put customers in danger and that’s why he’s been fighting for tougher regulation since 1991. He says every state department that’s been in charge of the security business has put off all suggestions to improve it. “For the life of me, I do not understand why they have dragged their feet so long. 'Why the state chooses not to do anything is beyond me.'” The Ohio agency currently in charge of oversight for security guards is Homeland Security, a division of the Department of Public Safety, or ODPS. We asked for an interview with its new director, but only received a statement from public information officer Lindsey Bohrer, saying: “We cannot speak on behalf of the previous administration as to why or why not things were done. We acknowledge the need to tighten security.”
The department is backing legislation as part of the upcoming budget bill that would run all registered guards’ names through a criminal database constantly. Hollenbaugh says he’s not holding his breath, given that the budget bill will see serious cuts before it passes. He says Cal Crim runs its own background checks of its employees more often than the state requires, but without the force of law, he believes some of his competitors do not do the same. “If you do not have regulations somewhat, then people are going to take shortcuts,” said Hollenbaugh. While some businesses hire security guards through a service like Cal Crim, many hire guards directly. Any regulation the state puts in place would bypass these direct hires, over whom the state has no oversight. They do not have to register, get any training or even one background check.