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Tempe to decide between two controversial security firms

By: - December 17, 2018 1:20 pm

A screenshot of Allied Universal Security’s website.

Last month the city of Tempe took some heat for a decision to add armed security guards to their parks. Now, the city council will be deciding if it wants G4S to work with another company, stick with G4S Security or instead hire the other firm, Allied Universal Security, which also has a history of indiscretions.

The move to add guards to parks was due to increased pressure on the council to act on what some in the city see as unsafe conditions caused by homeless people in the parks and criminal activity.

The city voted unanimously to spend $250,000 to hire London-based security firm G4S on a rare Monday night meeting, apparently because there was an Arizona State University football game on Thursday night, when the council usually meets.

The council asked the city to open up a bidding process on the $3.1 million 18-month contract, and now staff has decided the two companies up for the task are G4S and Allied.

The Mirror has reported previously on G4S’s history of controversies such as employees being found to be tampering with evidence, security breaches at military bases, fraud allegations, deaths at prisons they oversaw and more.

But Allied Universal has its own track record.

A recent viral video of officers with the New York Police Department yanking a 1-year-old from a mother’s arms has ties to the company.

Facebook user Monae Sinclair uploaded the video, saying the incident started when the woman was confronted by a security guard for sitting on the floor at a New York Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program office. Sinclair and the woman contended there were no other chairs available.

When police arrived, security officers with Allied Universal told them that the woman, Jazmine Headley, was refusing to leave and they then “brought her to the floor” after she refused, according to the New York Times.

Allied Universal did not respond to the Times’ requests for comment.

The New York incident is far from the company’s only controversy.

Last week, two security guards with the company pleaded guilty to beating a black man at a Denver transit station in April.

One of the security guards put on black gloves with “silver dots” on the knuckles before landing the first blow, which is the last thing the victim remembered before waking up in his home two days later, according to reporting by Westword.

In an investigative piece by Westword, they found that many homeless people and people of color have detailed negative experiences with the guards who have either verbally or physically harassed them.

The company was also at the center of a similar incident in 2016 in Boston in which an Allied Universal guard was caught on camera beating a homeless man and employees told the Boston Globe that the company’s work culture had encouraged this sort of behavior towards the homeless in Boston.

Allied Universal boasts revenue of about $5.3 billion, and has flexed that monetary strength in some of the lawsuits it has faced over the years.

In 2015, the company opted to pay $30 million to settle out of court with former employee Robert Stone, who filed a class action lawsuit claiming the company had failed to pay him for the time he worked.

Allied also paid out $90,000 for a lawsuit alleging religious discrimination at the company after it refused to let a Muslim employee modify the grooming standards of the company.

They fired the man two days after he made the grooming request. Many Muslim men do not shave their beards.

In 2018, This American Life also ran a lengthy radio segment in which Allied Universal played the role of villain.

The story followed an employee who had attempted to bring issues of sexual harassment to the company’s attention, only to find leadership did not want to respond.

The company was found to have reassigned supervisors with multiple accusations of sexual harassment and using offensive racial language instead of just firing them outright.

Independent investigations into the allegations are on-going.

The Tempe City Council will vote on Dec. 20 and, if approved, Allied Universal and G4S will have an 18-month contract that will start January 2019.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.