By ALLISON MIRIANI
Capital News Service
LANSING — Although bills to require new standards for security guards recently passed in the Senate, opinions are mixed over whether the changes are necessary.
Under one bill, the State Police would develop training requirements, require any security guard carrying a weapon to complete a pistol training program, forward fingerprints of prospective employees to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and increase the education requirement from an eighth-grade education to a high school diploma or its equivalent.
The legislation was prompted to provide protection for the public from guards who lack training.
“In the past year and a half in Michigan we’ve had three incidents in which people died as a result of contact with private security guards,” said Sen. Phillip E. Hoffman, R-Horton.
Hoffman, who sponsored the bills, said that adequate training is important to increase safety, as well as to “bolster the public’s opinion of the private security system.”
“It’s not the ultimate step, but it’s the first step in a multistep process of helping security guards understand their role,” Hoffman said.
However, Sen. Leon Stille, R-Spring Lake, said the bills may not make much difference in public safety. Stille, who voted against the first bill, said he is concerned it might go too far.
“The actual bill would require too much too soon and be too imposing,” Stille said. “Companies ought to have a little say.”
Stille said the incidents with members of the public being injured by security guards is a call for basic training, but the responsibility should lie within the company.
James Stanton, owner of Bear Security Agency Inc. in Shelby Township, agreed that companies should take responsibility for their own employees. Stanton’s agency hires and trains security guards and finds placements for them in other companies.
“In my company, you keep your hands to yourself — you are not a police officer,” Stanton said. “You are there to deter because everything in life is insured except for a human life.”
Stanton said all the proposed training may not be necessary. He said most people can be trained on the job in four to six hours.
Stanton said the increase in education is also unnecessary. He fears that an education requirement would make guards expect higher pay, something smaller companies may not be able to give.
“It doesn’t take a mental giant to be a guard,” Stanton said.
In addition to the training requirements and education stipulation, the bill would amend fee structures and increase fees for security guard agency license holders. The fees have not been increased since the mid-1960s, Hoffman said.
The money will be used directly for the cost of providing the service, Hoffman said.
“Up to this time, the general public has subsidized the costs with tax dollars É that is not fair,” Hoffman said. “We aren’t going to make them pay for the cost of licensure and oversight.”
But Stanton contends the bill would do something other than that — drive companies out of business.
“I’m just a small little guard company,” Stanton said. “I cannot compete with the big companies.
“The increase in the price of the license is going to drive us out of business.”
For this bill to take effect, another measure also must be approved. The second bill has already been approved in the Senate. It would require a Security Provider Advisory Commission to be created within the Department of State Police.
The commission would be made up of private security professionals who would make recommendations to the State Police. The police then would develop requirements for training, Hoffman said.
Stanton said the commission would likely be filled with professionals from the larger companies. He said that is a “very sore spot” with him.
He said the government emphasizes the “little man” but then makes requirements that conflict with that.
“Let’s get on an equal playing field and have everyone play by the same rules.”
The bills must now be passed in the House and signed by the governor before they can become law.
“This legislation is a matter of public safety,” Hoffman said. “Michigan residents and retailers deserve to know they are safe and being protected by security guards who have received the best training to appropriately address whatever situation may arise.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By ALLISON MIRIANI