- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

A PTA member at Eastern High School says that at least one public school security guard is a former D.C. Jail inmate and that other guards have taken students to dances and bought alcohol for them.

Wendy Glenn-Flood, vice president of the Eastern PTA, said she recognized an unidentified guard as an inmate through her outreach work at the city jail, adding that he “had a record as long as your arm.” In testimony on Monday before the D.C. Council, she said the guard was removed from the school after she complained.

The council held a hearing that probed the school system’s three-year, $45.6 million contract with Watkins Security of D.C. Inc. School officials testified that “inept” guards are reassigned to other schools and that some fraternize with students.

Watkins Security President Richard Hamilton yesterday told The Washington Times that officials at his firm were meeting with Eastern High School administrators to investigate the accusations.



“If anything derogatory about my guards is brought to my attention, we investigate immediately,” Mr. Hamilton said, adding that he doubts one of his guards is a former inmate.

Watkins Security, which provides about 300 guards for public schools, has come under scrutiny after the Feb. 2 fatal shooting of Ballou High School student James Richardson, 17. Thomas Boykin, 18, is charged with the teen’s death. He reportedly used a gun smuggled past school security guards.

The D.C. Office of Inspector General is examining several issues regarding the contract, including the background checks and training of guards.

Mr. Hamilton said he does not think one of his guards is a former inmate because the Metropolitan Police Department screens his applicants.

“If that happened, MPD had a serious breakdown,” he said.

Metropolitan Police officials yesterday told The Times that city law allows former criminals to apply for and receive security-officer licensing if at least two years have passed since their incarceration on a felony conviction or at least one year for a misdemeanor.

Lt. Jon Shelton, who heads the police department’s security-officer management branch, said police officers still can reject security guard applicants based on “moral character.”

Lt. Shelton said his 15-officer unit, which oversees about 17,000 security guards and special police officers, routinely rejects applicants with criminal backgrounds. But he said those rulings can be overturned by the D.C. Board of Appeals, which handles complaints about administrative decisions made by city agencies.

“It happens all the time,” Lt. Shelton said, adding that the D.C. Board of Appeals overturns eight to 10 of his unit’s rulings per week.

Board of Appeals officials were unavailable for comment by press time yesterday.

Mr. Hamilton called much of the criticism of his guards unfair, saying guards go through an extensive screening process.

“If they find out there’s something wrong or you tried to falsify your application, then you can forget it,” Mr. Hamilton said of the screening process.

He also defended his firm against complaints from the principals at Wilson High School and Cardozo High School that poorly performing security guards are not fired, but rather reassigned to other schools.

Mr. Hamilton said 139 guards at Watkins Security have resigned or been fired since the company took over security for the school system in July.

The school system’s contract with Watkins remains uncertain. The 65,000-student district has been paying the company through a series of short-term “letter contracts,” the last of which expires in two weeks.

Mr. Hamilton said he expects that Watkins would be on the job for at least three years, but the D.C. Council has yet to approve the contract with Watkins because the school system has not submitted it.

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