Madison’s Community Development Authority is reintroducing armed security guards at five of their housing properties 14 months after losing their previous contractor.
The Madison Community Development Authority passed a proposal contracting two armed security guards on Feb. 13 in a 3-2 vote, according to the Cap Times. The security guards will be responsible for patrolling three west side properties and two east side properties daily. These include Baird Fisher Apartments, Romnes Apartments, Britta Park Apartments, Webb Rethke Apartments and Truax Park Apartments.
According to the proposal, the security guards will be responsible for patrolling the interior and exterior of buildings’ parking lots; reporting suspicious, irregular, or illegal activities to law enforcement; enforcing the appropriate CDA policies and acting as a first responder to all emergencies at the housing properties as needed.
In addition to daily patrols, the security guards will be responsible for four properties on the east side and 20 properties on the west side, according to the proposal. These properties will only require a response from a security guard if an incident is reported during the guard’s scheduled hours.
According to the proposal, there is no federal or legal requirement for security services at CDA housing properties. CDA Deputy Director Deborah Rakowski said the CDA has hired armed security guards for their housing properties over the past 25 years, reinstating the policy with little change.
“It wasn’t a change in service per se,” Rakowski said. “It wasn’t in response to specific problems of violence and crime. It was really just to continue a service.”
District 13 Ald. Tag Evers voted against the proposal due to issues with the nature of adding armed security. Evers said it demonstrates the default of society to use more guns to prevent crime.
Evers said reviving the proposal wasn’t a matter of bringing something in that hadn’t been done before, but more so if the CDA was happy in the contract.
Evers viewed the 14-month gap between contractors as an opportunity to reevaluate whether it is necessary to hire armed security for the housing properties in the first place. Low-income communities and communities of color possibly being disproportionately targeted was a concern for both Evers and CDA board member Kelda Roys, who also voted against the contract.
“I am very concerned about the over-policing and the over-surveilling of low-income communities and communities of color … I’m opposed to it in principle,” said Evers. “If there is a criminal who is trying to sell drugs or up to no good, I don’t think that our security should be accosting that person. They should call the police.”
Rakowski viewed the 14-month gap as an opportunity to rewrite requirements and standards. This was due to the CDA’s concerns regarding the skills, training and certification of the security guards. This time allowed the CDA to update their standard operating procedures to better align with what is “current” in the industry, according to Rakowski.
Before voting on the new contract took place, CDA board members delayed the decision in order to conduct and review a survey of resident opinions and preferences. Additionally, police incidents at the housing properties were reviewed. Survey results revealed the residents’ views regarding armed versus unarmed security guards were split 50/50, according to Roys.
“It didn’t show that folks were universally in favor of this … it was split kind of down the middle,” Evers said. “So, it wasn’t like there was universal acclaim that this was absolutely something that we needed.”
Evers said there was little discussion of nonlethal weapons as an option for the security guards. Evers attempted to propose an argument allowing the housing properties to have higher-level trained individuals who were not armed with lethal weapons, but he said it did not take off.
Rakowski explained differences in pay and level of training received by an armed guard with a lethal weapon versus a nonlethal weapon were large factors in the decision. There is a significant difference in training required for an armed guard qualified to carry a gun versus a taser, according to Rakowski.
“It’s the training that the [lethally] armed guard receives and is required to take which in the security profession reduces the chance of an entry-level guard in that position,” said Rakowski. “That really speaks to our philosophy of security which is what we want our guards to be really engaged with our residents.”
The current contract will last for one year but can be renewed an additional four times. This means armed security could potentially be patrolling several CDA housing properties for the next five years. Evers said once a contract such as this one is voted on and implemented, it can be very difficult to retract.
Rakowski said communication with the affected residents is a top priority and will continue as the new contract is implemented. In addition to a separate routine needs assessment, Rakowski said the CDA is always looking for new ways to communicate with their residents and further engage them in these decisions.
Along with this, according to Rakowski, the CDA will be assessing the performance of its contractors. The CDA board has specifically requested quarterly updates on its contractors’ performance with the project going forward in the future.