James Fields, the man who allegedly mowed down 20 people in Charlottesville, killing one, was employed by Securitas Security Services USA, a company that also provides about 1,600 security officers in the St. Louis region. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, a Securitas employee contracted by MetroLink was arrested in St. Louis for stealing a woman’s purse.
With background checks an obvious requirement to be a security officer, are some simply slipping through the cracks? As for Murphy Outlaw, the security officer charged with stealing in St. Louis, he has just one prior offense, a traffic ticket from 2009.
Securitas Communications Manager Alethia Stone, in Parsippany, NJ, released a statement in response to the Charlottesville slaying that said, “James Fields was employed by Securitas Security Services USA, Inc. from May 5, 2016 to July 5, 2016 and again from November 23, 2016 to present as a security officer. Fields was hired in accordance with appropriate laws and company requirements, and he was issued a security officer license by the State of Ohio. During the time of his employment, he performed his duties satisfactorily. At the time of the incident he was on a previously requested vacation leave. His employment has been terminated.”
The St. Louis Securitas Office tells the Clayton TImes that all employees undergo a background check, which is vetted through a third-party company, Pinkerton. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company did not return calls for comment. Pinkerton’s website lists its services as employment screening, security risk management, investigations, protective services, response services, and intelligence services.
Post Charlottesville, it’s been found that several incidents in Field’s youth should have been red flags. Family members called 911 when Fields, 13 at the time, threatened his wheel-chair bound mother with a 12-inch knife. His mother told authorities she wanted her son taken away and he was placed in custody as a juvenile. His mother called 911 again when he was 14 because he hit her in the head after she told him to stop playing video games. She told the dispatcher he was on prescription medication to control his anger. Fields joined the military in 2015, but left less than four months later for unknown reasons.
However, because most juvenile records are sealed, those would not show up in a employment background check. Job applicants are also not legally required to tell potential employers about crimes committed prior to turning 18 years old.
Just like any field of employment, not every employee is going to be above reproach. But a closer look at Securitas’ website finds that even a prior conviction might not immediately disqualify a job candidate.
“Securitas conducts drug screens, background checks, including education verification and reference checks for applicants who have accepted a contingent offer of employment,” the company’s FAQ page reads. It also answers the question, “Can I be hired if I have a criminal conviction?”
“A criminal conviction will not necessarily prevent you from being hired. First, we do not run a background check until after we have made a contingent job offer. Second, each applicant’s background and criminal background screening results receive an individual review. We look at the nature and gravity of the offense, when the conviction occurred and the nature of the job being sought. You will also be afforded an opportunity to respond to any entry on your criminal background report and we comply with the requirements under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. There may be certain client sites that have federal requirements with respect to criminal convictions and there are some states that have licensing requirements. You would be required to meet those requirements, if applicable.”
Asked whether the backgrounds of subcontracted security officers who patrol the Metrolink should be more closely examined, Mayor Lyda Krewson and County Executive Steve Stenger had no comment.
In Missouri, Securitas has hubs in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia. In Illinois, they are in Marion, Chicago, and Peoria.