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Mills Public Safety dumps Guardsmark

Mills College is phasing out Guardsmark, LLC, its contracted security service, in order to return to in-house Public Safety.

“We were not pleased with the quality of service from Guardsmark,” said Karen Maggio, assistant vice president of business affairs for Housing Management and Dining Services. “Their training and the quality of the guards was not up to our standards.”

“It was a failed experiment,” said Maggio.

Last year, Maggio said that the College decided to outsource to a private firm because “some of our guards were not as well-trained as they could be” and because it was “time-consuming” to train and recruit guards.

Director of Public Safety Michael Lopez said he wanted to phase out Guardsmark for “consistency.”

According to Lopez, security guards often get paid $8-$10 an hour, which is not a living wage in the Bay Area, and so must work two or even three jobs. These types of guards simply want to put in their hours and go home or go to their next job, Lopez explained.

“I’ve never liked outside contracts because there’s no buy-in into the community,” said Lopez.

Lopez’s plan is to hire his own people, train them “his way” and pay them a higher wage so that the guards can be committed to only one job and therefore become committed to the Mills community.

The phase-out will occur in three stages, said Lopez. Stage one, replacing the night shift supervisors, has already begun. Stage two will be hiring swing shift supervisors and, in stage three, the phase-out will be complete with the hiring of day shift supervisors.
Guardsmark or another outside contract will be brought in for special events that require more security presence, said Lopez, such as dances and graduation.

Lopez said he anticipates 12 in-house Public Safety members; whether his budget will supply that remains to be seen. He said he wants two officers and a sergeant on each shift, with the extra three for relief.

Crystal Hunt, day shift supervisor and Guardsmark employee, said of this move, “I think it’s a good decision.”

“When you have contract security, they’re obligated to two entities,” said Hunt.

Lopez has given Guardsmark employees the opportunity to work for Mills if they meet his standards. He wrote a long list of standards in a job description, including the abilities to “work independently and with little direction,” “maintain routine records and prepare reports” and “analyze situations accurately and adopt an effective course of action.” Employees must also have knowledge of security procedures and techniques, interpersonal skills, crowd and vehicle control procedures and more, Lopez wrote.

Prospective employees must pass a background test as well as a drug test, and they will be interviewed by a panel of Public Safety and HMDS employees, he said.

According to Hunt, Guardsmark employees “have an interest” in coming to work for Mills.

“It’s the natural process of things,” she said. Guardsmark employees at Mills, she said, already know the people and the routine. Also, she said, “We all have a great respect for Michael Lopez.” She added that it’s important that you like your employer.

“He’s looking at the best interests of the College, and we agree,” said Hunt.