Security firm contracted to guard D.C. buildings fails weapons detection test

By Rick Rojas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 15, 2010

The security company contracted by the District to guard government buildings, schools and public arenas, such as RFK Stadium, failed tests in which inspectors were able to sneak weapons through checkpoints, documents show.

In May, U.S. Security Associates, based in Roswell, Ga., had eight weapons violations and 12 other infractions that resulted in up to $3,560 in fines for the firm and its subcontractor, Watkins Security, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Weapons used in the testing, according to the contract, could be a handgun, rifle or shotgun, or a knife or bladed instrument at least six inches long. The weapons could be on a person or in a bag during the tests.

The exact locations of the infractions are unclear.

D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said that inspectors had been "creative" in their deception but that the failures in May were unacceptable.

After the failed tests, U.S. Security sent a memo to its 300 officers in the District, threatening to fire those who did not do their jobs.

"What makes these failed penetrations even more unbelievable to me is that each of you knows" the inspectors who conducted the tests, Cmdr. Calvin Kimball of U.S. Security Associates wrote in the May 28 memo. "When they arrive on your posts you should take your awareness level up a notch! Does it not occur to you that they will possibly attempt to run a penetration exercise on you at that time?"

The city could terminate the contract, but Nickles said the District is unlikely to do so because security personnel have had significant training. There were no weapons breaches in June, he said.

"Our folks are satisfied that the training has been successful," Nickles said.

U.S. Security's contract expires in September. Nickles declined to comment on whether the city will renew the contract or say whether the failed tests would be a matter for discussion in negotiations.

The training U.S. Security held in early June included sessions on anti-terrorism, magnetometers and customer service, and the company has since fired two of its officers, Brian T. Dooling, a spokesman for the company, said in an e-mail.

Dooling said that performance has improved and that the company will work with the District officials to "take the necessary steps to ensure we meet their needs."

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