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Garden Grove approves $1.8M contract outsourcing jail security service to G4S

Garden Grove is switching its jail security services from one private company to another.

On Tuesday night, the City Council approved a $1,815,556.69 three-year contract with G4S Secure Solutions USA, Inc., a large private security firm with offices in more than a hundred countries and a controversial past uncovered in a 2019 news investigation.

Starting in June 2000, the city had contracted GEO Group, Inc. to provide 24-hour jail booking services for the police department. Although the council renewed a three-year contract with that company in 2019, the police department received notice that GEO is ending jail operations in California and will terminate the contract on Nov. 1.

GEO is a private prison firm that owns and operates two ICE facilities, three prisons and two detention facilities in California. This year the state planned to end two contracts with GEO for two prisons after Assembly Bill 32, a law barring renewal of contracts with private prisons, went into effect on Jan. 1.

Lt. Brian Dalton of the Garden Grove Police Department said Tuesday, “On average it takes police officers approximately two hours to handle a prisoner through the entire booking process. Using the GEO contract services, this processing time has been reduced to approximately 15 minutes, allowing police officers to return to the field more quickly.”

Dalton also said over recent years the amount of crime has increased along with arrests made by the police department. In 2019, officers made 7,575 arrests for felony and misdemeanor crimes compared to 5,619 arrests in 2014.

Garden Grove city staff recommended “piggybacking” on the existing jail services contract between Westminster and G4S approved in March 2020.

G4S offered to hire the 10 current GEO employees working in Garden Grove’s jail located in the police department building at 11301 Acacia Parkway.

The 10 custody workers would have to pass an updated preemployment screening. According to a service document compiled by G4S, the screening includes identity verification through Social Security, a variety of criminal searches, a review of seven years of employment, unemployment or education, a driver’s license check, drug screening, a physical exam and a psychological evaluation. G4S is also responsible for annual training.

G4S activities include security for concerts, shopping malls, banks, prisons and healthcare facilities. The company’s career page shows about 17 jobs — mostly security, detention or custody officers — available across Orange County.

According to a G4S spokesperson, the company provides jail support services to 15 Southern California police departments throughout Los Angeles San Bernardino and Orange counties including local cities Irvine, Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra, Westminster and Costa Mesa.

“Our longest local partnership dates back to 1992 with the city of Irvine and the Irvine Police Department. G4S is proud to partner and support these communities with qualified security officers so local police forces can focus on public safety,” stated the G4S spokesperson through email.

USA Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigated the security company and published a report in late 2019 that found a pattern of questionable hires and documented incidents of rape, assault and killing.

Incidents catalogued in the report include a GS4 employee working in an Arkansas detention facility fired for assaulting children and then rehired as well as statements from children who said G4S guards in the same detention facility bribed them with candy to beat each other up.

Omar Mateen, the 29-year-old who killed 49 and wounded 53 more at the Orlando Pulse nightclub in 2016, may be the name most often associated with G4S. He was hired by the company as an armed security guard after he was kicked out of the Florida Department of Corrections training academy. Mateen worked for the company for nine years despite other G4S guards who said they warned supervisors Mateen may be dangerous.

Garden Grove Public Safety Building

Garden Grove City Council met on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to approve a $1.8 million three-year contract for jail services with G4S Security Solutions. The controversial private security firm has been plagued by scandals in the United States and overseas.

(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Later, G4S was fined by Florida officials for hundreds of faulty psychological questionnaires, including Mateen’s. The questionnaires were signed by a psychologist who stopped working with the company two years earlier.

When asked about the 2019 reports that the company hired guards with violent pasts, the spokesperson wrote, “The writers built their stories by selectively identifying former employees, out of hundreds of thousands who have worked for G4S over the course of 15 years, to misrepresent our labor force as untrustworthy. In reality G4S employees, nearly a quarter of whom are U.S. military veterans, are brave men and women who devote their lives to protecting the public by saving lives, preventing robberies and keeping individuals out of harm’s way.

“G4S is committed to hiring and retaining quality employees and understands the trust customers place on us as a leading security solutions provider. Our screening process is rigorous with only 6% of applicants for armed officer positions meeting our stringent selection criteria.”

After three years, Garden Grove has the option to extend the contract an additional two years as well as the ability to cancel the contract at any time if the city determines G4S failed to perform its services.

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