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UNDERTRAINED, UNDERPAID, AND UNPREPARED: SECURITY OFFICERS REPORT DEFICIENT SAFETY STANDARDS IN MANHATTAN OFFICE BUILDINGS
Executive Summary Standards for New York City’s private security officers are alarmingly low. Despite the heightened orange security alert that the City has been under since 9/11, neither City leaders nor private building owners have taken the initiative to train security officers to respond to terrorism, interface with police, or work with firefighters during an emergency. Upon interviewing over 100 privately-contracted security officers who work in 39 major Class A commercial buildings, the Public Advocate’s Office finds that minimal training and limited enforcement of training requirements, combined with low pay, has left New York with a private security force that is ill-prepared to protect its public.
At a time when the Department of Homeland Security has kept New York City at a code orange terror alert, the City, businesses and building owners should have utmost concern for the public’s security. Many officers report having much less training than the state requires or none at all, and have little to no background in pertinent areas such as antiterrorism protection. 25% of officers surveyed have less than a year of experience at the building where they work. This report will demonstrate why current security officer training standards and enforcement practices need to be improved, compare New York’s security standards to other large domestic and international cities, and explain why the City’s Class A building owners need to play a more prominent role in developing and maintaining a professional security force.
Summary of Findings • Security officers’ wages are low, and healthcare benefits are unaffordable or not offered. • Turnover is rampant: nearly one-quarter of security officers stay at their job one year or less. • Most officers report having less training than New York State requires. • Training fails to emphasize terrorism, working with police, or firefighters. • Security officers are told to report emergencies rather than taught their role in responding to them • New York’s low training standards have not been revised since 1992 and are outdated. • The State Legislature needs to update the curriculum and address terrorism in security guard training. • The New York Department of State does not sufficiently police contractors to ensure that the security officers they employ are fully licensed and trained. • High turnover in New York is due to low wages and lack of opportunities. • Other large cities like Chicago and San Francisco use industry-specific minimum wages, which help promote a more stable workforce.
• The State Legislature should adopt legislation requiring additional hours of prelicensing instruction—beyond the currently mandated eight hours—as part of a new minimum requirement to become a security officer.
• The Department of State’s Division of Licensing should strengthen and expand their auditing of security companies to ensure that all security officers are properly licensed and trained. Spot checks may be an effective tactic.
• The Office of Public Safety within the Department of State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services should revise and strengthen the training curricula to reflect current security concerns, such as terrorism, and update the curriculum regularly to address evolving threats and concerns.
All private security officers in commercial office buildings should be required to complete comprehensive New York State-approved security officer training programs. A good example is Local 32BJ’s Training Fund 40-hour New York Safe and Secure program that includes state-of-the-art segments on terrorism, evacuation procedures and coordination with police, fire and emergency personnel during an emergency.
• As called for in City Council Resolution 569, the State Legislature and the Governor should allow municipal legislative bodies to adopt more stringent legislation in relation to training, background checks and licensing/registration for private security personnel to address the deficiency of current security measures.
• The New York Police Department should strengthen coordination with private security units and unilaterally expand its coordination to work with heads of small as well as large security firms.
• As part of a new citywide security protocol, the Police, Fire, and Emergency Response units and other first responders should all coordinate their emergency response efforts with private security firms.