Wednesday, April 02, 2008

20 years as a Rent A Cop.

I just realized that November of this year will make 20 years working as a security guard. Pathetic isn't it?

November 20, 1988, I signed on with Allied. Security as a guard, and stayed with that company until 2000 when I left to take a job in customer service at Dish Network. I only lasted six months there, and after a few months on the dole, I rejoined Allied for a stint that went from 2001 to 2003 where I was let go. After so more time on unemployment, I was hired by Cauley Security where I presently work. I remember my first detail. It was a high school playoff game at Baldwin between Woodland Hills and I think, Upper St. Clair. Since then, I've worked sites all over the city. I've made thousands of rounds, punched a few thousand keys, carried more radios, Detex clocks and pipe wands than I care to admit and guarded everything from stadiums to office buildings to homeless shelters, college dorms, and damn near every garage and parking lot in this town. If I took all the rounds I've walked in that time and laid them end to end, they'd probably extend from here to Philly and halfway back again.

I spent hours in funky guard shacks, reading, listening to the radio or to my iPods. I checked IDs behind desks, patrolled parking garages and made rounds in most of UPMC's hospitals and research facilities. I guarded the Pitt sidelines in the old Pitt stadium and saw more than a few couples make out in the Duquesne Incline's parking lot. I was within 3 feet of President Clinton and met Mister Rogers and Speedy Delivery's Mr McFeely in person.

It is largely a tedious job that pays crap, gets even less respect, and most guards quit within 6 months to find something better. I keep saying that I want to quit, but I don't know what else I can do. And it did provide a steady income and mucho hours of quiet study time during the Relentless Pursuit of Higher Education.

By and large, I've had few incidents to deal with, but one does stick out. I was working at the Iron City brewery one November when some kids got into the bottle house where the beer was being stored and proceeded to trash the place by running the forklifts into these 30 foot high stacks of beer cases. There was about 10,000 cases of beer destroyed that day and it happened just before I made my first round of my shift. When I went into the bottle house, I was literally rendered speechless, and I thought I was going to be fired onthe spot. I survived that nightmare with my job intact. But just barely. But that was the exception. Most days, guards are stuck in buildings often by themselves with no supervisor to check up on them, trying desperately to stay awake.

The job can be a pain in the ass sometimes. We wear these uniforms so we look like cops, but don't have their authority, so many times people blow us off when we try to enforce the client's policies, which is the main job of a security guard. And we can't retaliate, without losing our jobs. Security Guards only have the authority to carry out a citizens' arrest. And what citizen does that these days? Most guards don't carry guns, and the majority of a guard's training comes from the guys already working on site. And sometimes, the old guys cut corners and tell the newbies that it's policy, so they get busted when the client bitches that the job's not been done right. Most clients don't have drills on their property to insure that the security force knows what to do in case of an emergency, so the safety of a site and its residents often falls to an underpaid, largely unmotivated group of guards that may or may not have read the post orders or even if those post orders have been updated in the last few years. In these post 9-11 days, it is more important than ever that buildings are protected by competent guards who have the training to recognize signs of a possible terrorist threat, the equipment and clear orders on how to respond to those issues, and the backing of the client and the guard company when carrying out the client's orders.

I have no idea how much longer I'll be working in this field. I know I've been in it for waaaay too long.
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