NEW YORK, December 17, 2004 -- Guardsmark, LLC, one of the world's largest security services companies, announced the enactment today of the Private Security Officer Employment Authorization Act of 2004. Signed into law by President George W. Bush this morning as part of the National Intelligence Reform Act, the Private Security Officer Employment Authorization Act grants the security industry indirect access to criminal history information of employees and applicants -- including those who would protect the nation's critical infrastructure.
This closes a loophole which could enable a person wanted for murder or arson in one state to be employed as a security officer in another, or allow "sleepers" -- terrorist agents who embed themselves in society until called to action -- to be hired. Only by using every tool available can the United States begin to protect itself from such infiltration.
Guardsmark has championed the fight for criminal history background legislation. More than one million people worked as security officers in 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including 55,000 men and women working as airport screeners. Approximately 53 percent worked for private security companies, a total figure that exceeds the number of public police officers by more than 57 percent.
Guardsmark Chairman and President Ira A. Lipman, who has led the security industry's efforts to secure this legislation for two decades, applauded Congress and the President for enactment of the new law: "Today our nation is on its way to being safer and more secure. The vast majority of our nation's critical infrastructure -- including power plants, water treatment facilities, and telecommunications facilities -- are protected by private security companies and their employees. Knowing whether these individuals have a disqualifying criminal background is crucial to our national security and our homeland security. I congratulate Congress and the President for bringing this legislation to fruition."
"This legislation provides a fundamental piece of information in an industry where issues of trust and confidence are important, not only to the client, but also to the public," said International Association of Security and Investigative Regulators (IASIR) officer Marie Ohman of Minnesota.
The new act will alert security firms to the criminal records of security officer applicants. At the same time, it will protect employee privacy rights by not divulging specific information. Firms will receive only an "approval" or "denial" decision from a state's criminal identification bureau or similar agency authorized by the law, based on the existence of a criminal record. The legislation also provides criminal penalties for misuse of the information by an employer.
Due to Guardsmark's efforts, the most recent version of the criminal history legislation was introduced in the Senate in 2003. Known as S. 1743, the bipartisan bill was sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY). After unanimously passing the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 19-0 vote, the bill received unanimous passage in the full Senate on November 17, 2003.
Thereafter, S. 1743 went to the House of Representatives where it received a hearing on March 30, 2004, by the Crime Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. It was subsequently reported favorably out of committee as part of the Intelligence Reform bill and included in the Senate Intelligence Reform bill as well. The original Senate version of S. 1743 is identical to the final version in the Intelligence Reform package. In addition to the Senate sponsors, Guardsmark worked with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in taking the bill through the legislative process.
Known for its rigorous employment standards, Guardsmark has repeatedly called for quick access to FBI criminal databases. Current state background checks through various agencies in the 40 states that regulate private security firms can take as long as 90 to 120 days to obtain. Additionally, 10 states do not regulate or license security firms or security officers at all, resulting in a loophole that the legislation addresses by creating a federal disqualifying offense standard where no relevant state law exists. In summary, significant features of the criminal history law include the following:
* Allows security employers to know whether their employees have a
disqualifying criminal history record that would make them unfit to
guard the nation's critical infrastructure.
* Provides for funding via user fees from employers seeking this
information, so there is no burden on taxpayers.
* Relies on existing state identification bureaus, as the security
industry is regulated at the state level in the large majority of
* Respects existing state laws on disqualifying offenses. Creates a
federal standard for such offenses only where an individual state has no
* Respects rights of employees in the private security industry by: (1)
requiring employee or applicant consent before a record check can be
made; (2) restricting the determination an employer receives to a
finding of employability or non-employability; (3) requiring an employer
to provide the criminal history response it receives to the employee;
and (4) containing criminal penalties for misuse of information.
As Mr. Lipman further remarked, "This well-crafted, bipartisan, broad-based and thoroughly vetted legislation addresses the security needs of our nation while respecting our existing legal structure and the rights of our employees. It is in the best traditions of our democracy."
About Guardsmark, LLC
Guardsmark has been recognized as having the toughest screening standards in the industry and is regarded as the foremost proponent and practitioner of quality control for private security. Guardsmark has historically supported regulation of the private security industry and has sought the adoption of meaningful standards for the employment of security officers.
Privately held Guardsmark, founded in 1963, is one of the world's largest security services companies, with more than 150 offices throughout the world employing 18,000 people.