After 27-year-old teacher Alonzo Smithand 74-year-old MedStar Washington Hospital patient James McBride died in incidents involving private security guards last year, Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday proposed new rules intended to strengthen the training and oversight of so-called “special police officers.” The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined both deaths to be homicides.
The mayor and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier—whose agency certifies SPOs—announced the proposed regulations in front of the Holocaust Museum, where private guard Stephen T. Johns was killed in the line of duty in 2009. Bowser underscored the importance of the District’s more than 17,000 SPOs as a matter of public safety while acknowledging the risks that come with their power to carry firearms and issue arrests in certain circumstances.
“Our special police officers are often the first line of defense in an emergency. With our growing and changing community, it is critical that they have the knowledge and training to handle real-world scenarios,” she said in a statement. “These proposed changes to the regulations will equip them with the skill sets they need to not only protect us, but also protect themselves from danger.”
If approved by the D.C. Council, the rules would raise the number of training hours security guards must undergo to be able to patrol from 40 to 80. That training would cover “active shooter [situations], emergency response, individuals in health or mental health crisis, de-escalation procedures, and biased-based policing” as well as use-of-force strategies, according to the administration. Newly assigned SPOs would need to get 24 hours of on-the-job training—supervised by a peer who has at least one year of experience—within their first 80 hours of work. Armed officers would have to get 40 hours of initial training and eight hours of recertification training twice a year, the same as D.C. police must receive.
SPOs and their companies would have a couple years to comply with the new requirements, which are outlined below:
In December, Ward 5 Councilmember and Committee on the Judiciary Chair Kenyan McDuffie proposed his own regulations—through legislation—that would also bolster training requirements for D.C.’s SPOs. But it appears that Bowser’s rules would mandate several additional hours—including explicit “on-the-job” training—as compared with McDuffie’s proposal. (City Desk has reached out to his office and will update this post if we hear back.) A hearing has not yet been held on the councilmember’s drafted legislation, according to the D.C. Council’s digital legislation-tracker.