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City of Tempe hiring armed security guards to patrol public parks

Posted at 7:48 PM, Dec 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-22 14:38:49-05

TEMPE, AZ — A London based private security firm has been hired to help secure public buildings, courthouses, libraries, and parks in the city of Tempe.

City council voted on a $3.1 million contract for G4S security at a public meeting on Thursday night. The money includes adding more armed security guards to patrol public parks in the city.

Public documents show the company was one of seven who applied for the contract. The city whittled it down to G4S Security and Allied Universal based on a point system awarded for training, professionalism, and experience, among some of the criteria.

Councilman Randy Keaton expressed concerns about Allied Universal after having seen and heard of what he called disturbing allegations of human and civil rights violations. The company is under investigation for an incident involving assaults against the homeless in Massachusetts. Keaton told ABC15 he also worried about the culture in the workplace after hearing about incidents involving sexual harassment, and said he was not convinced company management took it seriously after watching an interview with the CEO of the company.

Some residents thought it was ironic that city council members would choose G4S Security over Allied Universal, as G4S also had similar investigations and allegations of human and civil rights violations at locations throughout the world.

Justin Stewart was one of several community residents who contacted ABC15 to voice his concerns.

"The city of Tempe sees itself as a progressive city. It's really important to see then that the companies we pay large sums of money to, like $3.1 million, are accountable. At this point what I've heard is they do not have a great human rights track record. A quick internet search and you will find a plethora of articles that discuss the issues they have had," said Stewart.

Another Tempe resident, Michael Morrison, also reached out to ABC15 with concerns. In full disclosure, Morrison is the owner of LionHeart Security Services, one of the seven finalists for the job to protect Tempe city buildings and parks.

Morrison said while he was not upset about losing out on the contract, he did question why the city would hire an International firm over an Arizona-based security company.

He also questioned the history of troubles surrounding both the two finalists, G4S and Allied Universal.

"What I'm upset about is that they didn't even take into consideration the fact that G4S's history of problems is much greater than allied Universal," said Morrison.

Tempe city staff said they had worked with G4S for about three years now and experienced no problems. Police chief Sylvia Moir had nothing but praise for the local G4S staff her office worked with.

"Our local experience with G4S has been exceptional. G4S has proven and demonstrated they have very high standards for hiring and training certification of men and women that serve in their company. That is our local experience," said Moir.

City officials said all security officers received training from Tempe police. They learned de-escalation techniques, as well as training from mental health experts on how to handle those who were under the influence of drugs. The guards were also trained by prosecutors on how to provide documentation of events and how to be a good witness.

Guards were also trained to interact with the homeless, find out their needs, and let them know about services offered through various agencies in the city that could help them get back on their feet.