January 31, 2022 Dena Jensen
On Friday, January 28, 2022, I submitted a records request for the contract the City of Bellingham has entered into with Risk Solutions Unlimited related to currently providing security personnel who, the City has said, “are scheduled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as part of an initiative to support a safe, clean, welcoming downtown.” I received a copy of the contract today, of which people can access a copy at this link: https://noisywatersnw.files.wordpress.com/2022/01/rsu_contract_-_downtown_security.pdf
I had searched for the contract on the webpage that the City of Bellingham website provides to search for City contracts, but no documents were returned in the search.
On this post I have attached a screenshot of the scope of work, so that people are aware of what the RSU security officers have been contracted to do. In turn, this should help people identify any situations where the security officers are doing things they have not been contracted to do.
I wrote to Bellingham City Council Members and the Mayor yesterday to request that they forward me any information related to what recourse community members have should security officers not meet the City descriptions of how these officers are intended to provide safety.
Here is the email I sent:
Sent: Sunday, January 30, 2022, 06:03:54 PM PST
Subject: Regarding the City’s use of private security officers in downtown Bellingham
Dear Mayor Fleetwood and Bellingham City Council:
I read the City of Bellingham’s Facebook post on Friday, January 28, 2022 announcing that “security personnel are scheduled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as part of an initiative to support a safe, clean, welcoming downtown.”
One of my concerns about the security officers is that in the Facebook announcement about them, there was no name tag visible, and the post only gave the first name of the security person they were apparently introducing. It seems to me that it would be very important for these security officers to be visibly identified by a name tag, so that if someone were to witness any conduct violations or have concerns about an incident involving a particular security officer, it can be accurately reported. I believe the fact that the City is indicating that these security officers will be prioritizing interacting with a wide range of community members downtown, that clear identification of who each officer specifically is will be especially important.
Meanwhile, knowing who the security officers are, in case people need to make a report involving that security officer, brings me to the issue of recourse for community members to pursue a complaint, if needed, and what the process is for addressing any misconduct by the security officers. How will such issues be investigated and addressed by the City of Bellinghm and by Risk Solutions Unlimited?
Could you please have information forwarded to me, or directly respond, as to what community recourse is offered if any of the Risk Solutions Unlimited security personnel do not meet the City descriptions of how these officers are intended to provide safety?
Also, I have not heard any questions or answers from City officials related to my concerns, described above, in the particular City Council regular or committee meetings I have listened to, so if there are meetings where such issues have been discussed, I would appreciate being directed to them.
Lastly, Risk Solutions Unlimited, the company providing these security officers, notes on the front page of its website that their security team is made up of former and aspiring law enforcement officers. I am sending along the following links to some recent reporting on local police officer complaints, and on an officer formerly employed on a probationary basis by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, who was subsequently let go due to not meeting WCSO standards, and then was involved in the shooting of a woman experiencing a behavioral health crisis after he was hired as a rookie police officer in Redmond Washington.
Can you please send me any information that was provided to the City about how the security officers are vetted prior to being provided by their company as security officers?
I understand, from what the City is communicating, that the intent is for these security officers to develop relationships with community members, to utilize deescalation techniques when necessary, and to be of aid to people. However, this has also been communicated as the intent for police officers in the City. Having watched numerous hours of Bellingham Police Department body cam footage, I have seen instances where, despite that intent, officers occasionally mishandle situations and make remarks or take actions that escalate or have potential to escalate situations into more dangerous or unstable ones unnecessarily. And, in the case of these security officers, I assume we will not have such required video recording of their actions while on duty.
I call on all of you to exercise extreme caution regarding the use of these security officers and to take action to ensure ample oversight of them is provided.
Birch Bay, WA
The email was sent to the following addresses:
To: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>; Hannah E. Stone <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Kristina Michele <email@example.com>; Hollie A. Huthman <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Michael W. Lilliquist <email@example.com>; “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>; Lisa A. Anderson <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Daniel C. Hammill <email@example.com>
Cc: Satpal Sidhu <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>