Walmart takedown sparks questions about security training
(Watch Above: Video of the takedown posted on Live Leak by user OPD21. Warning: the content may be disturbing to some.)
EDMONTON – A video depicting a violent takedown and arrest of a man allegedly stealing from Walmart by two loss prevention workers is raising questions about training for security staff.
The August 28 altercation, caught on video and posted on the website Live Leak by user OPD21 on Monday, led to an Edmonton police investigation, an internal Walmart review and a review under a provincial act.
Jeremy Garnhum, 26, faces six charges including assault with a weapon, assault to overcome arrest, theft under $5,000, and possession of a weapon dangerous to the public. The accused was treated for injuries but not admitted to hospital.
As of Wednesday, charges had not been laid against the loss prevention workers.
In Alberta, the security industry operates under the Security Services and Investigators Act.
The provincial government must license businesses and individuals in this industry. Working without a licence can result in fines or court appearances.
Under the Act, a person seeking a loss prevention officer licence must successfully complete Alberta Basic Security Training.
However, David Hyde, who has 25 years of experience in the private security sector in Canada and a Masters degree in security and risk management, says in some cases the training is not adequate.
“The training in Alberta is about equivalent to a 40-hour classroom training course where paper and pen and theory items are walked through,” said Hyde, who managed security at Calgary’s Chinook Centre for seven years. “They learn about the powers of arrest, when they can and can’t arrest.
“What they don’t learn is how to actually perform an arrest, the mechanics and function.”
Hyde believes more specific, standardized training is required for security personnel who are not police or peace officers.
“We need to have those techniques taught by a professional training organization who understand the private security approach to making an arrest and the legalities and to equip the front-line security people with the requisite tools to make arrests safely.”
He says, in many cases, this training is done by former police officers “who may not understand the type of situations security staff face, who have a little bit less power, less weaponry and less backup of course than the police have.”
Larry Wheaton, an instructor in the Alberta Basic Security Training program at Calgary’s Columbia College, says training is essential, but the onus is also on the companies that hire security staff.
“Security guards – LPOs specifically – can make an arrest, so what they were doing was absolutely correct. How they were doing it is a matter of debate.
“That’s where a lot of companies fall short; teaching their staff how to do that job.”
Wheaton stresses he doesn’t have the details of the Walmart employees in the video or the company itself.
“The company – the onus is on them to give [employees] the tools that they need to do that particular job. And if employees are left to their own devices, they’ll fill in the gaps on their own, and make up their own plan on the fly, and what you get is often, what you see in the video.”
On Tuesday, Walmart issued a statement to Global News saying it was “deeply concerned about the incident” and was “conducting a review of our processes to ensure all safety considerations are addressed.”
Hyde agrees that companies also play a big role, and that their policies should address security staff, protocol and safety.
“All too often, I don’t think the employer really understands how their front-line security staff are trained, and what type of policy guidelines are in place – or are often not in place.”
“It may be legally permissible to make the arrest, but is it operationally viable to make the arrest in a safe way? This is the focus of training that’s very often missed out in my experience.”
A spokesperson for the province explains that duties and functions of roles covered under the Security Services and Investigators program vary greatly and include security guards, loss prevention workers, executive security guards, private investigators, and even locksmiths.
Regardless of the sector, the Security Services and Investigators Act is designed to ensure minimum standards of training, accountability and professionalism.
Complaints about actions taken by individuals and businesses licensed under the Act can be directed to:
Complaints Coordinator, Security Programs
Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General
9th Floor, 10365-97 Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 3W7