Last month’s Orlando gay nightclub shooting proved the deadliest in national history, and prompted a flurry of fierce debate on what to do to address issues of terrorism, homophobia and access to firearms. Another less widely covered issue was that of security guard screening, and it’s relevant to injury lawyers who handle Florida premises liability lawsuits.
The 29-year-old gunman who killed 50 and injured 53 at Pulse was identified by officials as Omar Mateen, a U.S. citizen whose father was native to Afghanistan. Mateen worked as a security guard for a company called G4S Plc. It’s a British company with clients in more than 100 countries, including the U.S. He had been employed by the company since 2007. The company’s U.S. headquarters is in Jupiter, FL and it employs some 611,000 people globally in prisons, airports, ports, cash transport services and more.
After the shooting, questions arose regarding to what extent Mateen was screened. We know that he, along with every other armed guard in Florida, has to be certified officially as mentally and emotionally stable. But how exactly is that done? According to Security Info Watch, an industry publication, there was no point at which a psychologist ever sat down and reviewed his records or talked to those who knew him or even interviewed him face-to-face. The determination for who is “mentally and emotionally stable” is done with a written personality test that is standard for all guards. These tests offer a host of true-false questions that are then assessed by a contracted psychologist.
In this case, that means the singular evaluation – conducted before he was hired – failed to take into account his chronic misbehavior as a student, his teenage misdemeanor battery arrest or a disturbing gun joke that resulted in his termination from his post as a state prison guard trainee the same year G4S Plc. (also known as Wackenhut Corp.) hired him. The state also soon thereafter gave him a license to carry a gun for the company.
Would a more thorough evaluation have done anything to prevent this shooting? It’s tough to say, but probably not. We know he was not acting in his role as a security guard when the shootings were committed and the weapons he used are easily available to members of the public. For this reason, it’s unlikely the security firm will face any direct liability or vicarious liability claims.
However, the whole situation does raise the question of whether security firms can do more to properly vet those to whom they are entrusting the security and protection of the public. Inadequate security or negligent security can be grounds for a premises liability injury lawsuit.
Properly screening for armed security guards is imperative, but it can be tough, considering that the profession in general is rather low-paying and the turnover is typically pretty high. As one South Florida forensic psychologist put it, giving guns to guards who passed a standard written test is like saying someone who passed a grammar test will make a great journalist. There is much more that has to be considered to determine whether an individual can aptly do the job.
Still, there is no indication the security firm violated any industry standards in its screening process. There are some who say that’s problematic and that such checks should be more involved. Florida lawmakers have proposed the possibility of introducing a bill that would give security firms access to FBI background checks and other tools to more effectively screen candidates.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Orlando shooting sharpens security on screening of security guards in Florida, June 27, 2016, By David Ovalle, McClatchy
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