The North County Transit District fired its private security company before a new multimillion-dollar contract even took effect, after determining that some of the guards weren’t certified in firearms, first aid, CPR, disaster response and six other training categories.
inewsource documented a similar event last year in “Security Breach,” which detailed the lack of training and preparedness of Universal Protection Service officers, many of whom went on camera to blow the whistle on their employer. Universal guards are armed and tasked with patrolling and making arrests throughout NCTD’s network of trains and stations.
Shortly after publication, in February 2013, NCTD audited Universal’s training files and found enough deficiencies to breach its contract. Universal was given time to correct the problem and get its officers up to speed. Future audits found the company was in compliance for the remainder of its term.
In November 2013, NCTD awarded a new, five-year contract to Universal worth $3.7 million, with the stipulation that all guards certify in a variety of training courses before beginning.
On Feb. 28, 2014, just a few days before the contract was to take effect, NCTD audited Universal’s training files and found “several deficiencies related to the enhanced training requirements of the new contract.”
NCTD voided the contract and took the $670,000 allotted toward Universal’s first year and hired 10 unarmed code enforcement officers and a manager. It left in place a contract with San Diego County for seven sheriff’s deputies to patrol and respond to emergencies along the combined 84 miles of COASTER and SPRINTER rail systems.
Universal’s president, Steve Claton, asserts that his guards were in “full compliance” throughout the lifespan of the NCTD contract, and only six guards were lacking the required certifications.
When asked why guards weren’t certified between the contract award date (November 2013) and the contract start date (March 2014), Claton wrote in an email,
“The specialized three-day training required for this certification was not available in San Diego County prior to March 1st…”
inewsource spoke with Alexis Blaylock, legislative advocate for California’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training — which sets training standards for state law enforcement and assists agencies and companies like Universal in locating training programs.
Blaylock said she found it “difficult to understand” why Universal couldn’t find a course for its officers in the three-month span, since training is offered at all times at more than 30 locations throughout the state.