Savings over safety

City administrators need to re-evaluate their priorities when it comes to hiring armed security

The security guard who fired the shot that mortally wounded Tyler Rushing was not working in the course of his duties for the city of Chico. However, that incident should give municipal leaders pause when it comes to the relationship they’ve established with Armed Guard Private Protection.

After all, Rushing could easily have broken into a city-owned facility. For context, the Stansbury Home is a few blocks away from where he was killed—and it’s among the properties listed in AGPP’s contract with the city.

With that incident as the backdrop to this week’s cover story on that city contract (see page 18), we find City Manager Mark Orme’s response to the controversial nature of hiring armed guards dismissive. Orme noted that the company offered the lowest bid and that the city “didn’t mandate that they carry weapons.” He chalked up their being armed to “part of their corporate culture.”

Somehow, Orme missed the memo that the public is wary of armed, nongovernmental firms working in public spaces. We’re surprised considering the controversy over armed private security is a national topic (think Blackwater) and, locally, community members have voiced concerns to the city, including a petition that collected more than 350 signatures back in 2013 calling on the City Council, among others, to put a stop to privately funded patrols downtown.

We’re also dubious of the claim that hiring AGPP is a cost-saving measure. If most of the tasks are menial, we’d argue for the city to hire an additional full-time city maintenance worker to perform them, along with additional work that would benefit the public (read: park and street repairs). The cost, based on city payroll data (including salary and benefits) for such a position, is comparable and in some cases lower than the contract with AGPP.

As for the company performing quasi-police duties, we say leave those things to the professionals, who ostensibly have the proper training. In our minds, at the very least, the city could and should mandate that AGPP not carry weapons. That’s the only surefire way to avoid a potential tragedy—and liability for the cash-strapped city.