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Olympic Head Defends "Observe and Report" Policy, Says Metro Approved

By Erica C. Barnett February 25, 2010

Mark Vinson, president of the company that provides security in the downtown transit tunnel, sent a letter to city and county officials yesterday defending the company's interpretation of a King County Metro-approved policy that required security guards to merely "observe and report" suspicious or illegal activity in the tunnel. (Last January, two guards for the company, Olympic Security, were caught on tape standing by while a group of teenagers beat and kicked another teenage girl. After a public outcry over the incident, which became national news, Metro said it would find another company to provide security service).

In the letter, Vinson points to
an e-mail from Metro chastising Olympic Security because a guard had touched a person who was misbehaving on the shoulder to get his attention. The e-mail suggests there was inadequate training on the contours of the guards’ “observe and report” limitations. Following this incident, at the direction of Metro, refresher training was conducted in December based on the attached training outline for standard post orders that was submitted to Metro for review and approval late last year. Item 21 is specific about non-intervention in a fight.

In the email, addressed to Olympic tunnel supervisor Mustafa Darrar, Metro security coordinator Gail Israelson says that two Olympic security officers violated Metro policy requiring officers to "observe and report" incidents by making "physical contact" in one case, and by "interfering with operational issues (again!)" in another. "It would appear to me that [the two security officers] do not fully understand the concept of 'Observe and Report,'" the email says. In conclusion, Israelton asks about the status of a planned officer training on the "observe and report" policy.

Metro deputy general manager Jim Jacobsen says that neither of the incidents cited in Israelton's letter were assaults. One, he says, was a skateboarder who complained to Metro after a security guard tried to stop him from rummaging through trash cans in the tunnel by touching him on the shoulder; the other was a bus driver who complained that a guard directed him to back up in the tunnel, in violation of Metro and Olympic policy.

"Following this incident, at the direction of Metro, refresher training was conducted in December based on the attached training outline for standard post orders that was submitted to Metro for review and approval late last year," Vinson wrote.

That training manual states explicitly that guards should "Observe and Report, don't involve yourself in any fights, don't direct the coaches, don't touch any unattended bags, but do report to your supervisor." However, Metro's Jacobsen notes that that document has a date of February 24, 2010—yesterday—and says Metro has no previous record of the document.

Olympic has come under intense fire for the policy, which the two guards cited as the reason they did not intervene in the January altercation.

"Some of this obviously doesn't quite fit together," Jacobsen says.

Vinson responded to a list of questions through a spokesman, who only identified Darrar as an Olympic supervisor, and did not ask the remaining questions.
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