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Rochester, Rochester Hills

February 5, 2014

RCS ends security contracts following violation

Guard caught with loaded gun, knife at Rochester High School

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — Rochester Community Schools has hired a new company to handle security at the high schools after terminating the former security contract after a guard was caught with a loaded handgun and knife at Rochester High School, a violation of the weapons-free school zone statute.

Captain Mike Johnson, station commander for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Rochester Hills substation, said the security guard was arrested early Feb. 3 and charged with possession of a weapon in a weapons-free school zone — a civil infraction since he is a concealed weapons permit holder — after deputies learned he had a loaded 9mm handgun and 4-inch blade knife in his backpack, which he left in a locked office at Rochester High School.

“It was in a locked office, but its also a locked office that a lot of people have the keys to,” Johnson said.

The incident was the second recent offense filed on the district’s high school security guards, which were contracted through D.M. Burr Security Services for the past two years. In December, a security guard at Stoney Creek High School was charged with sending a sexually explicit photo of his genitals to a 15-year-old Stoney Creek student. Benjamin Thomas Lawrence, a 23-year-old Fenton Township resident, was charged with distributing sexually explicit, visual or verbal matter to children, a two-year felony —with an additional charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony. A pre-trial is set for Feb. 13.

RCS Community Relations Director Debbi Hartman said the district terminated both of its contracts with Burr — a three-year hall monitor services contract that was set to expire June 30 and a three-year parking lot security contract, with mail courier, that was set to expire on June 30, 2015 — immediately following the Rochester High School incident, and hired a company called Safe-Ed to provide security services at its four high schools.

“We had concerns about some of the incidents that were taking place and when we had the incident with the Stoney Creek Security guard, we started to review the contracts to see what our options were. When we started reviewing the D.M. Burr contracts, part of the review was to look to see if there were other security companies that were available, so we had been looking for other companies for the past month,” she said. “When the second incident occurred at Rochester High School, we decided to take the opportunity to terminate the contracts immediately.”

The new $131,000 contract with Safe-Ed encompasses hall monitoring, parking lot, and general school security services at each high school through June 30, which Hartman said provides RCS time to re-bid these services this spring.

“The new contract is comparable to the balance of what the Burr contract was,” she noted.

Superintendent Robert Shaner shared the news of the security changes with district families in a Feb. 3 email, which said the district is “looking forward” to the new partnership with Safe-Ed.

“The district has conducted extensive reference checks and this firm comes very highly recommended by other local school districts,” he said in the email.

According to Shaner, many of the individuals hired by Safe-Ed are retired police officers with experience in the youth divisions of law enforcement agencies.

“We anticipate an enhanced level of security service and performance,” he said in the email.

Safe-Ed security guards reported for their first day of duty at the start of school Feb. 4.

“It was very quiet. Everything went smoothly,” Hartman said.

District officials expect the transition to Safe-Ed to be fully implemented by the end of the week.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.