How safe would you feel? 

Image via Wikimedia Commons
  • Image via Wikimedia Commons

What if you knew that private security officers in Indiana — you know, the ones who guard our libraries, our businesses, our hospitals, etc. — were not required by law to undergo special training to be certified?

What if you knew that the state of Indiana did not require armed security officers to have special training or permits beyond what state law requires of any ol' yahoo with a carry permit?

And what about if, locally, you knew those security officers weren't making a living wage, weren't getting raises, didn't receive sick days, couldn't afford health insurance?

Would you feel safe?

Probably not. But that's Indiana — a state where anyone off the street can also by a firearm as long as he pays the ten bucks to get into a gun show at the State Fairgrounds. (Don't even try it, gun-rights folks. I'm not anti-gun. And I've been down this road too many times with regard to the gun show loophole. Read the law, IC 35-47-2-7, before you comment. Here's a hint: it's in the words "reason to believe.")

That's Indiana, where massage therapists, for example, must complete at least 500 hours of “supervised classroom and hands on instruction”; where a manicurist must pass an exam and undergo 450 hours of training to be state certified; where a security officer requires none of this.

I spoke to one security guard recently who is charged with protecting the Central Library Branch. The Central Branch attracts a lot of riff-raff, both well- and ill-intentioned. Not only is special training not required, but security officers for his company, a multi-national, Sweedish-based firm called Securitas, aren’t trained to perform CPR or first aid. As such, it’s the company’s policy that its security officers are not allowed to touch a person who may be choking or having a heart attack, for fear of litigation.

It's a deplorable and dangerous situation. And an undignified one for security officers to endure, given the terrible pay they receive, the dearth of benefits and the lack of unionized negotiating power.

Things could be changing, however: Yesterday, City-County Council Minority Leader Joanne Sanders introduced the "The Safe and Secure Bill," which would require eight hours of general training for all new private security officers. Armed officers would need 16 hours of training by a certified NRA instructor.

The law would sets the bar extremely low, relatively speaking. But at least it puts a bar in there somewhere. Meanwhile, security officers at Securitas and other security companies are beginning to organize under the umbrella of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). If enough security workers from enough companies band together, the SEIU can negotiate with one voice for better conditions and wages for security workers across the city.

The SEIU yesterday released a white paper study examining the situation for Indiana's private security workers, comparing it to other states. The results are pretty abysmal. In the end, Indiana is one of only 11 states to receive an "F" grade for what's nearly a complete lack of legislative protection and oversight.

To view the report in full, see here.

Meantime, stay tuned. There's a lot more to this story, and I'll have something forthcoming in the print edition rather soon — probably as soon as next week.


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Austin Considine

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