Former G4S Officer Says A Mass Takeover Of Core Police Functions by G4S Is “Irresponsible”
Danny @ OcPo had a one on one with a former G4S officer who quit due to mismanagement and safety concerns, he says a takeover of core police functions in the UK by G4S is “Irresponsible” here’s how it went -
Danny: Thank you for speaking with us.
G4S Officer: “My pleasure. Glad to be of assistance.”
Danny: For obvious reasons we won’t mention you here by name.
G4S Officer: “Appreciated.”
Danny: For the purpose of this interview can I call you John?
G4S Officer: “Yes Sir”
Danny: John, when did you work for G4S and what was your rank?
John: “I began my training in January 2009. I was posted at the Suncor Oil Refinery in Commerce City, CO by Wackenhut which was then merged with G4S to become G4S/Wackenhut. In Jan 1, 2011 the merger was complete and we were G4S, fully. My rank was that of USO (Upgraded Security Officer) for the entire duration of my employment.”
Danny: What were your daily responsibilities and duties as a G4S USO?
John: “I was trained, and qualified to cover every post at my facility. I acted for the majority of my time there as a “floater”. I was rare at the same post 2 nights in a row, or even on the same shift. My responsibilities included: access control, documentation of vehicles and personnel entering or leaving as well as times, daily activity reports, incident reports, and in the asphalt unit (where I was posted for my final months) I was responsible for the above duties, as well as training certification of commercial drivers in safety operations, operating the scale house, creating Bills of Lading, and the operation of Suncor equipment for the loading of asphalt from the racks to commercial vehicles. It should be known that a refinery is an extremely volatile and dangerous environment. Therefore security at such a place needs to be on top of its game at all times. There is a constant possibility of toxic gases, explosive materials, and any number of hazards ”
Danny: Are you currently employed with G4S?
John: “I am no longer an employee of G4S, I quit in the spring of 2011.”
Danny: Why did you quit working for G4S/Wackenhut, did it have anything to do with the merger?
John: ” My decision to leave was for several reasons. 1) safety concerns and mismanagement 2) pay was not commensurate with the added duties required as I advanced and 3) Personal reasons – I was planning a cycling vacation in Europe, and the company was not understanding about extended leaves of absence unless it was for reserve or military duty. After approximately 2 years of service, during which time I was told repeatedly by the Captain and other Senior Officers that I was management material (but couldn’t be promoted due to internal policy), I gave 30 days notice (ample time in any work place), and was told by my Captain that, he would make sure to give me horrible references and do anything he could to make it difficult for me to find a job elsewhere in the future. This was the thanks I received for dedicated service and 2 years of accolades. As for changes, after G4S took over, nothing really changed except the name on my uniform and on my checks. G4S was just as complacent in regards to safety and pay as Wackenhut was. Two sides of the same profit minded coin you might say.”
Danny: Are you familiar with what’s happening with in the UK regarding the mass privatization of core police functions which will be run by G4S?
Danny: Police are afraid that the quality of service will be poor if G4S takes over in the UK, do they have a reason to feel this way?
John: “They have every reason to be afraid. When you contract a security company that is referred to in many circles as the “Wal-Mart of Security” due to the low pay, and laxed requirements for employment, you get what you pay for. As for quality of service compared to that of sworn police officers.. the two can’t be compared. During my time with G4S, I was personally responsible for exposing Officers, Sergeants, and even a Lieutenant, who were all involved in a daily obsession of World of Warcraft games. In some cases they were so preoccupied with playing online for the entirety of their shift, that the security and safety of the complex was an afterthought. This was a concern of mine which I brought up numerous times, all involved were kept in their positions after a simple reprimand.”
Danny: Were you thanked for bringing up this issue?
John: “No, as a result of me bringing up the issue, and the fact that most of those involved were my superiors, I was subjected to ridicule and attitude.Management was fully aware that they had an extremely high rate of officers sleeping at their posts, playing online games, receiving visits from friends, as well as several other distractions. They turn a blind eye, because the corporate office is more concerned with keeping costs down, and hiring inadequate help. They often look the other way, rather than pay a salary that is equal to the responsibilities required.”
“Danny: What caliber of service is provided by G4S compared to that of trained Police Officers?
John: ” The service provided is cheap security in both cost and quality. Benefits are negligible for officers, we were paid a fraction of police salaries (an average of between $10-$15 per hour), but you get what you pay for. Instead of qualified officers, you end up with desperate people who’ll accept low pay at the risk of not only their own safety, but the safety of others. There are also internal issues with the service, such as inferior training, in fact, one of the last training classes I attended was a re-certification class which had been reduced from a 3 day class to a half day rushed course. Uniforms and PPE’s were substandard and recycled several times (my shirt was so threadbare that my elbow ripped right through while writing a report. This is also an issue since we wore NOMEX uniforms in order to comply with both Suncor Oil and OSHA requirements, yet the uniforms would never pass when it came to flame retardant testing. Patrol vehicles were, in most cases, held together literally with duct tape as opposed to being repaired, and properly maintained.”
Danny: Does G4S manage to get the job done cheaper, if yes, how?
John: “They do “the job” cheaper, yet I would not say they are doing the same job. They cut corners everywhere. One example of this is when I was working the graveyard shift, and we had barely enough staff to pass as security, even in the best conditions. If an emergency had occurred, we were so poorly understaffed that there was no possible way of creating a solution. There were obvious holes in the perimeter (as large as a car in some places) where supplies such as copper wire were being stolen. Instead of spending on extra lighting, or cameras, their solution was to have the patrol vehicle make one extra round per night which then totaled in most cases a single round in an 8 hour period. Also as I mentioned before, G4S cuts corners on PPE’s, quality of employee, and now as you can see, the staffing numbers and perimeter security as well. My facility is just one example, but it should give you some insight into how G4S gets the job done cheaper.”
Danny: What is the difference, if any, between G4S employees where you worked, and G4S employees who will take over police functions, if any?
John: ” There’s only one difference, the ones for police duty may be armed (as are the G4S employees currently contracted by RTD -The Regional Transportation District) G4S employees are the same across the grid, above officer level they are mostly ex military/police. The Captain who was in charge of the Suncor account prior to the Captain I served under, was a former Denver, CO police officer, who had been terminated from his department due to multiple investigations of abuse, pulling his gun on a routine traffic stop, as well as several other violent offenses. This is not a solitary incident in their hiring practices”
Danny: Because G4S is a private corporate security firm and not the police, are they held accountable to the public?
John: “G4S is only accountable to stockholders and the companies they’re contracted to. In one case an officer made customers extremely uncomfortable by making comments about shooting people out of frustration. Everyone just wanted to ignore it and hope it went away. I documented it however, and requested a statement from the customer who witnessed event. It was only when I brought the event to light that he was finally dismissed from his post, but in all cases I witnessed, it was always kept confidential from not only the public, but even the client we were contracted to. In fact there was a case of an officer drinking alcohol on duty at 0830, he was fired, and I was told by my superior officers that it was only because the client’s employees caught him that he was fired. Otherwise he would have only been reprimanded.
Danny: It seems police officers in the UK may have a lot to be concerned with in regards to this takeover..
John: “Yes, absolutely”
Danny: The public is afraid that G4S officers will no better than hired mercenaries, such as Blackwater, there’s an ‘Orwellian’ feel to this mass takeover, does the public have a good reason to feel this way?
John: “Absolutely. The majority of their employees in higher positions such as Sergeants, and Lieutenants, are hired solely because they were either ex-military or police. Many of these employees tend to exhibit tendencies of a “God-complex,” and/or were released from police duty due to their inability to do their duty in a satisfactory manner. Otherwise, why would a police officer voluntarily take a demotion in pay and benefits to be a security officer, after all the effort of police academy, training, etc…?”
Danny: Being that G4S is a private corporate security firm who cuts corners to save money, and they will be taking over police investigations, is it possible that civilians could be wrongly arrested, charged and sentenced due to shoddy investigative work?
John: “That’s a possibility, in fact I’m reminded of an issue I addressed several times while stationed at Suncor. There were 2 main roads that cross through the property, these roads were public roads where cars, pedestrians, and cyclists passed through on a regular basis. There were instances where an innocent pedestrian or cyclist was traveling these roads, and officers who were high-strung would call over the radio to inform everyone of their presence. In most cases, a Sergeant or Lieutenant would then be dispatched in a patrol vehicle to detain, question, or otherwise investigate the civilian. This is disturbing because these people had done nothing wrong, and were on a public road minding their own business. In truth, we were out of our jurisdiction, let alone able to detain and/or question them, which we had. Most civilians are not aware that, this is an infringement of their rights, in most cases they consented to the questioning due to intimidation and fear. Because G4S I doing this already, I’d hate to think how far they’d push the envelope if given the authority of actual law enforcement officers.”
Danny: Is it common for G4S to use fear and intimidation tactics on civilians?
John: “Yes, it was. Something civilians should understand is that, a security officer is not ‘law enforcement’. Security holds no more authority over civilians than any other civilian. Sure, they can make a “citizens arrest”, but so can every other civilian. The only authority a security officer has, is in the capacity of a rule, or policy enforcer for the company they are contracted to. Otherwise, they are civilians as well. The only difference is that they have a uniform. So when I see security officers imposing their position on civilians in a situation such as the ones at my facility, I have little doubt that they would abuse their position as police officers even more drastically as I said before.”
Danny: I’m going to wrap this up, what I’d really like to know is, based on your experience as a G4S officer, could you in good faith recommend that G4S take over core police functions in the UK?
John: “NO. Using G4S or any other corporate security firm to replace police is totally irresponsible in my opinion, I would never recommend that G4S be allowed to take over core police functions in the UK or anywhere. Personally, I would not even hire them as a janitorial service.”
Danny: Thank You for your time sir -
John: “My Pleasure”