Friday, April 07, 2006

Making L.A.'s commercial office buildings more "Safe and Secure"

Jack Weiss and I have co-sponsored a proposal to improve public safety at commercial office buildings by strengthening coordination between first responders and improving training and retention of private security officers. The program picks up where a voluntary program that was much discussed in council last year, "L.A. Safe and Secure", leaves off. We were joined in the motion by Councilmembers Herb Wesson, Janice Hahn, Wendy Greuel, and Alex Padilla. And in developing our approach to this issue, we've been helped immeasurably by the attorneys in Rocky Delgadillo's office.

In legislation as in life, you have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. While a few commercial office building owners have risen to the challenge of improving security after 9-11, there are weak links in our chain of security. As lawmakers, we have no greater responsibility than to ensure the highest security possible for the men and women who live and work in our city, and improving the training of security officers in commercial office buildings will go a long way towards making sure that, in a disaster, police and fire will be able to coordinate efforts with the men and women who know the buildings best.

As Jack Weiss pointed out at the press conference, private security officers are the first line of defense at some of the region’s most attractive terrorist targets. We have to ensure that security officers have the necessary training and experience to fulfill this responsibility.

We also want to address the issue of officer turnover. All the training in the world won't make a difference if turnover continues at high rates. A study by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (pdf) concluded that security officer turnover is at 243% in L.A.'s commercial real estate. By contrast, in Chicago, where security officers are unionized and have medical benefits, turnover is nearly ten times lower.

The proposal will be discussed in the our Public Safety and Housing, Community, and Economic Development legislative committees. I'll let you know how it develops.