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Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kansas among states not regulating guards

May 30, 2007

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— That private security guard watching as you walk through your favorite store could be licensed and trained and have no criminal record - or not, depending on where you are.

Kansas is among 10 states without any state requirements for licensing, training or checking backgrounds for private security guards. That's left to local governments, and at least half a dozen regulate them.

Unless a security guard works in one of those cities or for a company with its own screening requirements, it is hard to know whether the person being paid to protect life and property has a criminal record or is wanted by authorities.

"There's no way to know if it's a felon with a record unless they have a thorough background check," said Kyle Smith, Kansas Bureau of Investigation deputy director. "If you don't regulate it or track it, you might not be aware of it."

It's anybody's guess how many private security guards work in Kansas because there's no central registry and not all cities require registration. The state has 7,300 certified peace officers; some estimates say the number of security guards is equal or slightly higher.

Last year, six cities sent 1,092 fingerprint cards of security guard applicants to the KBI, which sent them to the FBI. The FBI reported results directly to the police agencies. The KBI doesn't keep a separate record because state law doesn't require it.

As in other states, private security is a growing business, particularly in urban areas. Security at guards at Wolf Creek, the state's only nuclear power plant, are now authorized by law to use deadly force to protect the plant.

"Security in most companies is like a maintenance man; you put him on when you had to. Since 9/11, people are security-conscious," said Tom Deatrick, who started American Sentry Security nearly four decades ago in Topeka.

Deatrick said most of the demand has been in urban areas such as Emporia, Lenexa, Prairie Village, Salina, Topeka and Wichita - all of which regulate guards.

Deatrick, who calls private security "the quiet end of protection," said as population density increases, so does private security, faster than the police force.

"If municipal law enforcement agencies could handle the crime wave, we wouldn't exist," he said. "We fill a need that no other public agency can."

While the demand for private security has increased, there's been little movement toward statewide requirements. The Legislature hasn't looked at the issue since 2003.

"The cities that do perceive a problem are dealing with it themselves in a satisfactory manner," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Vratil, R-Leawood.

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