Normally, I have a lot of sympathy for security guards. I think many times they are the unsung heroes of security - the folks who are never paid enough, but are expected to save the day. They are the guys and gals out there making sure you and I are okay and if we're not, they know what to do. Unless, of course, their hands are tied by silly policies aimed to protect corporations or agencies from being sued. I understand liability. I talk to transit agencies regularly and one of their primary reasons for having video surveillance is to protect themselves from false claims just as much as it is to protect their patrons. Do you think forward-looking video cameras are to ensure that buses remain on the right route? No, it's to make sure that if the bus is involved in an accident, they have evidence about who's at fault and who has the right to sue. And while I think it's a sad testament to the world we live in, I'm okay with that kind of proactive security.
But, what happens when agencies take that fear of liability too far? The incident in Seattle where security guards stood there as a girl got beaten up is beyond disgraceful. And, in many ways, I'm sympathetic to the guards involved. Did they want to intervene? No one knows, but my guess would be yes. Very few of us choose to stand around and watch another human get hurt, knowing we can help. But, because the transit agency had a ridiculous, "observe and report" stipulation, these guards were restricted from intervening for fear of losing their jobs. And that's disgraceful. Disgraceful, especially, for the folks upstairs who make these policies.
But apparently that policy has been changed. Shocking, I know. According to this article: "Security guards in Seattle's bus tunnel now have the authority to break up a fight, or physically defend themselves." Great. I would say that's the public's definition of a security guard's duties. Glad those in charge are coming up to speed on this.
Seattle City Council met with Metro Police Chief Major Dave Jutilla, King County deputies and Seattle police to talk about the new security plan. "The focus really has been de-escalation of volatile situations, responding to hostile situations and give the security guards the basic skill to defend themselves,” Jutilla said.
As part of the new security plan, the tunnel guards working for Olympic Security Services will be given additional training and can step in to stop a fight or protect a bus rider.
Wow, so they can actually provide security? Really, that's monumental. What's so aggravating about this incident and the response it's garnered is that it's so typical: Something happens, everybody freaks out, a lot of money gets spent to fix the problem, and over time, when the public memory fades, those policies and solutions start going by the wayside, security budgets get cut again and likely the exact same vulnerabilities reappear. What will it take to break this security cycle?