The vicious beating of one teenage girl by another inside a downtown Seattle transit tunnel as three private security guards watched has led the city's metro department to rethink its security policies.
On January 28, a 15-year-old girl attacked and stomped on another 15-year-old girl inside the transit tunnel after altercations at nearby retailers Macy's and Nordstrom. The entire attack lasted about a minute and was caught by a surveillance camera. The video shows the assailant bum rush the victim into the street, tackle her on the platform, repeatedly punch her, and then stomp on her. The victim's purse, book bag, cell phone, and iPod were then stolen from her. Four people, three adults and one juvenile, have since been charged in the assault and robbery of the 15-year-old female victim.
Three security guards watched the entire attack from an arms-length away without intervening. They did, however, radio for assistance. (Warning: the video is violent.)
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that the security guards' contract with Kings County Metro explicitly stated that they "should 'observe and report' assaults and suspicious activity to police, but not try to physically intervene." The guards were employed by Olympic Security Services, a private firm based in nearby Tukwila, Wash.
Regardless, the guards' hands-off approach has generated anger from city and county officials. Kings County Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond told the paper that the guards' inaction was inappropriate, despite what the contract stated.
"It's extremely troubling and absolutely unacceptable. I don't think anyone here believe their response was appropriate and that's why we have to change the way this language works," Desmond said. "We're going to rethink this, change procedures and get Olympic to train their personnel."
The transit tunnel has been protected by private security since 2007. Previously, King County paid off-duty Seattle police officers to patrol the transit tunnel. The beating has since returned security to police officers. Two weeks after the incident, the King County Sheriff's Office has posted armed deputies at each stop within Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, reports the The Seattle Times. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn also weighed in on the matter, releasing a statement that says the city will explore using uniformed Seattle police officers to patrol the tunnel until a better solution can be formulated.
Seattle police Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, told SeattlePI that the switch from police officers to private security should never have occurred. "It's appalling to watch that video. People aren't safe. They were safer with the police and the people who made this decision should be held accountable," he said.
In a statement to a local television station, Olympic Security Services said it welcomed a policy change with King County Metro and defended its security guards.
"In the past, our guards have been very effective in deterring fights when only two people were involved, by verbal intercession or acting as a physical buffer," the statement read. "When a situation has escalated like the one depicted in the videotape, these passive approaches are not effective."
Olympic's contract with Kings County expires in October, and Desmond told SeattlePI that policy changes will affect the bid price.
♦ Photo by Brett Hammond/Flickr