Investigators: More Metro Tunnel security problems exposed

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by SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @SFrameK5

KING5.com

Posted on February 11, 2010 at 11:26 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 12 at 12:00 AM

SEATTLE - The KING 5 Investigators expose even more trouble in the Metro bus tunnel after the brutal beating of a teenage girl and uncover a picture of a guard sleeping on the job.

The video tape shows a serious safety problem in Seattle’s Metro Tunnel: Three marked security guards, contract workers from Olympic Security Services, looking on as a 15-year-old girl is viciously beaten on January 28.

Now, KING 5 has uncovered more trouble with Olympic security guards, including a picture of a guard sleeping on the job and internal company documents showing a pattern of concerns.

King County taxpayers foot the bill of more than one-million dollars each year for the work of Tukwila-based Olympic Security Services.

According to the contract language, the guards are responsible for "(providing) all necessary services to assure the safety and protection of tunnel facility occupants, and protect real and personal property against injury." Several pages later, the contract states the guards are to "observe and report any illegal or seemingly illegal activity."

When the KING 5 Investigators uncovered the security camera videotape, people across the country were appalled at the lack of action on the part of the guards; including Governor Chris Gregoire who spoke to KING 5 tonight.

"It's an embarrassment to everybody here. It's an embarrassment that it's got national attention and we need to assure people in that tunnel that they're going to be safe and secure," said the Governor. "When I saw it, I was shocked and dismayed, candidly. I don't have security written on the back of my jacket. And I ask myself, what would I have done? And these are young folks and I would have done everything I could have done to stop it."

Earlier this year after receiving a tip, the KING 5 Investigators began looking into Olympic Security and their work for the King County in the tunnel. We obtained dozens of internal company documents which include supervisors writing up one incident report after another about guards not doing their job. Many of the reports are about guards simply not being in the tunnel during their shift.

One report from early October says a guard often "disappears" from his post for long periods of time. The supervisor writes “He seems to be gone from his assigned station more than he is present and I am concerned if there is an emergency, his absence will cause catastrophic problems.”

In another memo dated October 30, a group of guards is written up after repeatedly being called on their radios to help a fellow guard with pedestrian violations. According to the document there's no response. The guard is “never able to raise them on the radio.” The out-of-touch security men are eventually found. Two of them are chatting with each other. A third is “leaning against the wall with his hands in his pocket and staring at his feet.”

KING 5 went to Olympic Security's offices in Tukwila to try to get an on-camera response.

Instead we got a written statement provided by a public relations firm hired this week by the security company. A portion of the statement says employee performance is a top priority. “Assuring that our security officers are on station and alert is priority for everyone in our company. Reports of guards who are absent from their duty stations, inattentive or otherwise not carrying out their duties are investigated promptly… (But) Late last year, a number of rumors came to us that guard absences were increasing… random supervisory visits to duty stations were increased during the months of December and January.”

KING 5 has obtained company documents written during that time period, where supervisors visit stations with "no guards" visible.

Two guards are supposed to be on the station platforms at all times.

We checked ourselves.

Last month the KING 5 Investigators spent several hours in the tunnel.  In most cases we spotted two guards on duty. But on six occasions we documented only one guard. And in one instance at the Pioneer Square Station, there was no security presence at all.

Tayler Allen of Everett rides Metro and Community Transit every day. He tells us he loves the service, but he has witnessed and documented security problems on his routes. After he saw the videotaped beating on KING 5, he contacted us about pictures he’d taken. They include a photo of a security guard, with an Olympic Security badge on his sleeve, sleeping on the job.

Allen says he walked up to the guard to ask a question about which bus he should take, but got no response. He says he could hear the man snoring. "I didn't feel secure. He's supposed to be a security guard and he's sleeping on the job so I wanted to have proof to show people," said Allen. “You need these people to be alert, and be ready to act, and that's just uncalled for, to be sleeping on the job when your job is security of people."

Olympic Security Services got the Metro Tunnel contract through a competitive bid process five years ago after the county decided to quit using off-duty police officers. That contract worth millions of dollars is up at the end of this year.

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