- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2016

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday new plans to toughen hiring standards and training for the more than 17,000 private special police and security officers in the District, following the deaths of two men in altercations with security guards last year.

“We believe that [officers] meet the requirements that are on the books now and we believe that these requirements need to be strengthened,” Miss Bowser said at a news conference at the Holocaust Museum.

Since January, officials have assessed current requirements in developing a new set of standards that will provide “the best training and the best tools so that [special police officers] can protect us, themselves, our visitors, employees and residents from danger” the Democratic mayor said.

Last month, two former guards for MedStar Washington Hospital Center were indicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter. The guards — Clifton Montgomery, 30, and Charles Brown, 43 — face up to 30 years in prison for the death of 74-year-old James McBride in September.

McBride, who left the hospital without being discharged, was being brought back by Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Brown when he suffered a broken vertebra near the base of his neck.

Alonzo Smith died in November from injuries sustained after he was taken into custody by a special police officer outside an apartment complex in Southeast. Body camera footage released to the public shows the officer with his knee on the back of an unconscious and handcuffed Smith. The medical examiner’s office has ruled the case a homicide, but no charges have been filed.

If approved by the D.C. Council, the new requirements would apply to all private security guards licensed by the District to carry weapons and exercise limited powers of arrest.

New standards propose doubling the required initial training for guards from 40 hours to 80 hours, and tripling yearly recertification training from eight hours to 24 hours.

Nearly 60 percent of special police officers are licensed to carry firearms, and their yearly weapons training would be doubled to 16 hours.

Applicants convicted of misdemeanor sexual abuse also will face a lengthened period of ineligibility, if the proposed standards are approved.

Under the new requirements, companies will have two years to adopt the standards when hiring and training officers or will lose their ability to license private guards, said Melinda Bolling, director of the Department of Consumer of Regulatory Affairs.

The new regulations will likely be submitted to the council after public comments have been offered and the lawmakers’ summer recess has ended.

Thursday’s announcement included a tribute to the security officer who was killed in an active-shooter situation at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009.

An 88-year-old avowed white supremacist and holocaust denier opened fire at the museum in June 2009, killing Stephen Tyrone Johns, 39. No visitors were harmed.

The shooter, James W. von Brunn, was apprehended after authorities shot him in the face. He died a year later awaiting trial on murder and hate-crime charges.

Officials said proposed additional training requirements, would in part, better prepare officers for similar situations and that training will require active shooting scenarios.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier acknowledged Johns as a hero and thanked all the men and women who work to keep the District safe.

“These changes are proposed for two reasons, one to make our security guards safer so that they can come to work and do their jobs and feel comfortable, two to increase their ability to do their job better everyday,” said Chief Lanier.

• Aubri Juhasz can be reached at ajuhasz@washingtontimes.com.

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