Ill-trained, low-paid private security guards are attempting to protect tempting terrorist targets across the nation, reports the Associated Press. One $19,000-a-year man, for example, guards a high-rise office building in Los Angeles. Down the block is a skyscraper identified by President Bush as a building chosen for a Sept. 11-style airplane attack. An AP survey found wide chasms among states in requirements for training and background checks. Tens of thousands of guard applicants were found to have criminal backgrounds. The middle ground pay for security officers in 2006 was $23,620. Some states require FBI fingerprint checks for every guard job applicant. Others let the industry police itself. These states don’t regulate the industry: Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kentucky, Wyoming, and Idaho.
No one knows how many guards who have been convicted of serious crimes were hired in states without background checks or where they slipped through the system. Congressional investigators reported that 89 private guards working at two military bases had histories that included assault, larceny, possession and use of controlled substances and forgery. The security businesses’ trade group, representing the largest firms, acknowledges that the industry as a whole isn’t ready to recognize signs of terrorism and respond to an attack. The Service Employees International Union is trying to raise pay by negotiating master contracts with multiple companies in some areas. The union has contracts for guards in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Bay area. Negotiations are under way in Seattle, and the union hopes for talks in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., and Boston.