Mobile patrol vehicle found to be dangerous
There is an increase in security companies using sub-contracted security guards to perform mobile patrols because it is cheaper for the company and transfers all the risk to the sole trader running his own vehicle.
This is dangerous for the individual guard who thinks that this is a good way to earn some extra money and drive their own car around at night time. An important message is that these individuals are responsible for all safety and damages arising from their business because it is their vehicle.
I was asked to look into a security company that had been the subject of a few complaints regarding unsafe vehicles and forcing other guards to use them to conduct mobile patrols. The owner was keeping all the profits and not repairing any vehicles even though the guards had been requesting the owner to make the vehicles safe to drive.
A role to play
Due to the nature of the complaints and evidence necessary to gather I needed to become an employee of the company to see first hand if the reports were correct and to verify that the owner had been informed that the vehicles were unsafe.
I attended the office for my interview and I could see that his business was being run from his house and two shabby vehicles were in the driveway. This is not a sign of a healthy and compliant business. Within a few minutes I had been employed and given an introduction to my patrol car, one of the shabby twins in the drive, and given the keys with a run sheet for the patrol tonight.
My Security patrol vehicle
I have driven in demolition derbies with better cars than this one. There were numerous dents all over the panels showing signs of rust from months ago probably. I asked the owner for a vehicle checklist so I could inspect the car before I drove it. He laughed and told me that it drives and that I should be happy with that. He told me his mechanic checks the vehicle every month and has given a clean bill of health to date.
The car had orange flashing light bar on the roof and a hand painted emblem of the security company on the front doors. I opened the door and got to drive the car away. I drove away with the run sheet in my hand, no training in his procedures or the run and I wondered how people like him ever get to be in charge of a security company.
Under the bonnet
After I had driven to a nearby carpark I arranged to have the car inspected by an authorised mechanic knowing that the report will become evidence later in court. While I waited I recorded all the material and items in the car with readings of all the relevant indicators. I had brought my camera along and started to take all the photographs I needed to show the extent of the damages and signs of misrepair.
I have had advanced driving training in defensive and offensive drills with vehicles but I was still nervous to drive this car a short distance to the mechanic because the brakes werent working and I had to use the hand brake and gears to stop.
Its never good when the mechanic just shakes his head
The mechanic just stared when I drove into the service bay and got out. I knew that this would take a few hours so I left him at it. I could tell he wasn't happy with the vehicle. He also knew that he couldn't repair it because I needed to prove that the owner would not repair the vehicle once the defects were reported.
When I got back he had the report completed and handed me my copy. There were problems in every major function of the vehicle.
My first patrol run in the vehicle
I started my run and found that there were inconsistencies with the clients locations and expected patrol timings so I contacted the owner and asked for instructions on how I could get from client A to client B in the required 5 minutes to cover a 15 kilometer distance through residence areas.
His reply was for me to drive as fast as possible but I would be sacked if I did not get to the client within 5 minutes. And by the way I was to pay any fines from speed cameras if I got caught.
The night just gets better and better. Most of his clients have never been visited by a patrol officer in months and his alarm codes are often out of date causing no end of dramas when I tried to complete the run he had assigned.
Something to report
After my long and interesting night patrol I drove the vehicle back to his house for it to be assigned to the day patrol officer. I met the day guard officer and went to report the vehicles condition as part of my handover, but the guard just told me that he knew about it all and was told not to complain. I asked if he reported it and he told me that he had reported it weeks ago.
I went and asked to see the owner to hand over my night report and we had a coffee together at his kitchen table.
I handed over the run list with all the out of date codes and incorrect run times listed on it. I also handed a written safety report on the vehicle with what I had identified while I was driving the vehicle. I did not show the mechanics report because I wanted to see what his mechanic would find. The owner told me that the car did not look pretty but it did the job. I asked if he knew the brakes were out and he told me to use the hand brake until they are fixed.
Nothing to see here
I told him that he has to give me another vehicle because I wont drive that one again until it is safe to drive. He then told me I was a complaining whiner and that not to bother about working tonight as he had just fired me.
I aksed the reason for termination and he told me that I had failed to do my run properly.
After a few weeks the security company was inspected by the OHS inspectors in regards to the complaints regarding unsafe vehicles and had found him to be in breach of several Acts and working conditions.
That month I received a phone call requesting my help in tracking the owner down because he had done a runner from the Police. Apparently the inspection uncovered that the owner had used a false name to register his business and was wanted for some serious criminal actions in his recent past. I was one of the few people to have seen him in person and been inside his house. I found out afterwards that most of the guards he employed were employed over the phone and never met him. The patrol keys were left in his letterbox for the hand overs.
The moral of this incident is that if you have unsafe vehicles and treat your employees unfairly, one of them may report you one day, and open up a closer look into your business records and personal life.
Saving mobile patrol guards lives
All mobile patrol officers need to conduct a proper vehicle safety check before they start their run. If any damage or malfunctioning systems are detected you need to complete a written report of your findings. Keep a copy of this report in case you need to prove that you informed the owner of the safety risks and they failed to take reasonable action.
The life you save may be your own
© Copyright 2008 by Paul Baker
Information supplied by Paul Baker
Over twenty years security & risk management experience across Australia to protect corporate clients from critical incidents and security risks.
Previously served in the Military and expert in explosives, weapons, and information gathering techniques.
Achieved formal qualifications in a wide range of security risk management skills and commendations for crisis response operations
03 9642 0599