Denver weighs $25 million contract with security company involved in Union Station assault

The Denver City Council will vote on a three-year, $25 million contract with the country’s largest private security company, which is currently being sued by a Denver resident who was left with permanent brain damage after one of the firm’s guards beat him at Union Station.

The proposed contract with Allied Universal would shift the bulk of security detail for the city’s properties to the company. A public hearing and a vote on the contract are scheduled for Monday’s City Council meeting.

Although the guards involved in the beating working for Allied Universal under a contract with the Regional Transportation District, the incident has caused several council members and community members concern when considering Denver’s proposed contract.

“I am appalled that Allied is even a consideration at this point,” Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca said during a September committee meeting on the proposed contract.

The proposed contract would become effective Jan. 1 and last until Dec. 31, 2023, with the option to renew the contract for two more years.

For a maximum of $25 million, Allied Universal would provide 98 unarmed guards and 11 armed guards for security at 19 city properties, including the animal shelter, the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building and the City and County Building. The company employs hundreds of guards in the Denver area and works at 60 other sites in the city, including at the city’s temporary emergency homeless shelters.

“An inexcusable crime”

Allied Universal representatives denounced the guard’s 2018 beating of the artist, Raverro Stinnett, during meetings with the City Council’s Finance and Governance Committee and tried to assuage concerns about the company.

The company increased the amount of mandatory training before a guard can start from 24 to 40 hours, tacked on an additional 24 hours for armed guards and committed to conducting a quarterly performance evaluation. The training standards are more than is required by the Denver Department of Excise and Licensing, which regulates security services in the city.

Three Allied Security guards were sentenced to prison time and fired in connection with the beating of Stinnett while he was waiting at Union Station for a train. Stinnett, who was suspected of no crime, suffered permanent brain damage from the attack and in April sued Allie, alleging lax hiring standards and inadequate training from the company created a culture of unaccountability.

“These were individuals who made an inexcusable crime against a fellow citizen of ours,” Jeremy Lee, regional vice president for Allied Universal, told councilmembers during a Sept. 29 committee meeting.

But one of Stinnett’s attorneys questioned whether the company is committed to making amends, noting that the company sought a gag order to keep Stinnett and his attorneys from discussing the case publicly. A judge denied the company’s request, court records show.

“It’s remarkable that Allied Universal would be promising Denver City Council transparency in their operations when they simultaneously attempted to prevent a citizen of the community of Denver to speak about the abuses they suffered,” lawyer Qusair Mohamedbhai said.

Unanswered questions

An Allied Universal spokeswoman denied requests from The Denver Post for a copy of the company’s use-of-force policies and its training material.

The spokeswoman also did not answer a series of questions, including how the company tracks use of force by its employees, how many times Allied security personnel working in Colorado used force over the past two years, how many complaints have been lodged with the company regarding Colorado personnel, who trains Allied personnel and whether guards who are not armed with guns carry other weapons like pepper spray or batons.

The proposed contract between the city and the company states “the primary function of Agents is to observe and report. Agents shall not use physical force against any person, except for the use of reasonable force only to protect oneself, or another person, and then only as a last resort.”

The spokeswoman also denied a request from The Post for an interview and instead emailed a written statement that said, in part, that the company always seeks improvement to its policies and practices.

“We do not tolerate aggressive or inappropriate behavior or unprofessional conduct of any kind by our employees and we investigate the cause of all incidents and take appropriate action to limit the possibility of a similar situation occurring again,” the statement said.

After facing questions and pushback from Denver residents and councilmembers, Allied Universal executives announced they would work with Nita Mosby Tyler, a well-known Denver consultant who works on equity issues, to evaluate the company’s practices.

The city previously contracted with a different security company, HSS Security Systems, for its security needs. HSS Security Systems and one other company bid for the new contract, but were not selected.

“A cross-agency evaluation committee scored Allied as the highest of all the participants based on the evaluation criteria contained in the written proposal and virtual interview,” Kami Johle, director of administration for Denver General Services, said in an email to The Post.

Litigation nationwide

Stinnett’s lawsuit is not the only recent litigation against Allied in the Denver area, however.

An employee of Allied who worked at Google locations in Thornton and Boulder in March 2019 sued both companies for alleged sex and race discrimination. The woman was the only female Hispanic worker at the locations and in the lawsuit alleged that Allied ignored her complaints that a supervisor was giving more hours and overtime to her white, male colleagues. The woman filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which granted her a right to sue.

Allied and the woman settled the case out of court in June 2019, court records show.

Across the country, Allied has been involved in a series of recent high-profile incidents:

  • Four people experiencing homelessness in Boston sued Allied in 2017 alleging that Allied’s guards assaulted them multiple times at a transit station in 2016.
  • Allied Universal in 2018 paid $90,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the EEOC for refusing to accommodate a Muslim worker’s request for an exception to the company’s grooming policy and firing the man two days after he made the request.
  • The family of a man who was killed in 2019 after an Allied guard in Sacramento kneeled on his neck for more than four minutes filed a lawsuit in July against the company, alleging they used excessive force against the man, who was trespassing.
  • The families of two Dallas police officers shot while responding to a shoplifting call at a Home Depot sued the company in 2019, alleging the Allied security guard who detained the shoplifter failed to find the gun used in the shooting because he did not perform a pat-down.
  • The parents of a kindergarten student in Chicago sued the school district and Allied in February alleging that a guard slammed the child on a table and choked him.
  • Victims and survivors of a mass shooting at a San Francisco UPS facility sued Allied Universal in 2017, alleging the company’s security guards failed to stop the armed shooter even after he set off metal detectors.

When some of these incidents were addressed at an Oct. 6 City Council committee meeting, Johle said such lawsuits were not uncommon for large security companies.

“We already know that any security contractor, any security company, that is able to serve the size and needs of the city is going to be a national company and they’re going to have previous and current litigation,” she said.

If the City Council votes against the contract, “the city will evaluate all options to maintain safety and security in city facilities,” Johle said in an email.

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