SANTA MONICA—City Council unanimously voted 7-0 to approve a pilot program that will deploy a private security company to patrol downtown Santa Monica at a regular meeting on Tuesday, July 25.
The 12-month pilot program, currently set to cost $1.7 million, would employ Covered 6, a private security company based in Southern California.
Several residents, business owners, and employers of Santa Monica have taken to city council meetings to voice the impact local crime, in combination with the ongoing issue of homelessness, has had on the city’s tourism industry.
“Santa Monica is perceived as unsafe, unclean, and unsuitable for travelers. Addressing this perception is vital as it impacts not only the Fairmont but also all other businesses in the city,” said Sam Jagger, the General Manager of Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.
“This is the same for our employees. They don’t feel safe going home at night. They don’t feel safe coming in in the morning,” he said.
The Covered 6 security guards will operate on three shifts; morning, afternoon, and night. Their main duties, according to Covered 6 Chief Officer Michael Grant, will involve assisting residents and tourists with directions or recommendations, aiding homeless individuals in finding resources, and de-escalating situations where there is an “imminent threat” until police can arrive.
“This resource is not designed to replace or undermine or in any way determine how we deploy our police department,” clarified City Manager David White.
Chief Grant said the security officers will make contact with homeless individuals, attempt to offer them available resources and follow up with their progress to report back to Downtown Santa Monica Inc.
Much of the questions from council members concerned the fact that one supervising security guard on each shift will be armed with a 9mm Glock. Other security guards on shift will not be armed.
“I’m not comfortable with any private security forces being armed,” said Councilmember Jesse Zwick. “I don’t understand what instance we would ever want private citizens firing weapons on the Third Street Promenade. The use of deadly force, even by our police officers who are highly trained, is a remarkably delicate issue.”
Chief Grant said that a core part of Covered 6 security guard training is being “very reluctant to use force.”
“They’re very reluctant to use any force at all. In fact, if we see the situation is getting out of hand, of course then we would call law enforcement to standby but we don’t want to become a burden to law enforcement as well,” he said.
According to Grant, each supervising security guard who possesses a gun will have served a California State Police Agency, be licensed through the Bureau of Investigative Services, and receive additional training from Covered 6.
Councilmember Zwick attempted multiple times to add an amendment to the proposal that would prevent the supervising security guard from carrying a gun. There were no seconds on these proposed amendments.
By Paige Strickland