Southfield— Saying better training and licensing was needed for security guards, two state lawmakers proposed legislation Monday they said could help prevent incidents like the death of a Ferndale man who was pepper-sprayed by guards at Northland Center last month.
The Safe Security Guard Act legislation, proposed by state Reps. Rudy Hobbs, D-Southfield, and Thomas Stallworth III, D-Detroit, requires improved training and calls on the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to require licensing for each security guard.
“We believe the absence of those requirements represents a significant risk to both the public and security guards as they attempt to conduct their business,” said Stallworth, following a news conference at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “I understand that all the facts aren’t in and that the investigation is ongoing, but just on its face, the question is whether those guards understood how to de-escalate a situation versus escalate it.”
Southfield police are investigating the death of McKenzie Cochran, 25, who died on Jan. 28after he tussled with security guards outside a mall jewelry store. Although some witnesses said he displayed unusual behavior and allegedly told a store employee he wanted to kill somenone, others said the security guards were too aggressive, especially when Cochran was overheard saying he couldn’t breathe.
Southfield police who came to the mall said that Cochran, whom witnesses identified as being handcuffed and sitting on the floor, still had a pulse but died later at a local hospital. No charges have been filed in the case.
Stallworth said that the security guard industry “has not prepared itself and its employees in a way where they understand protecting life is more important than protecting merchandise.”
The two lawmakers said that Michigan is one of only seven states that do not require training for security guards, even while they are armed. Among the requirements: learning proper use of Tasers, pepper spray and other devices; legal aspects of the use of force; learning to better work with the public; and training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“These are people that are trying to work and earn a living,” Stallworth said. “What I do want to make sure of is that they have the training that they need to keep the public safe and to keep themselves safe in executing their duties.”