When local attorney Ken Orrock decided to start a private security company in town last year, he was rather dismayed by the city's regulations for the profession.
There were antiquated references to companies using the word "police" on their uniforms, badges and vehicles, and no one was required to carry liability insurance for allegations of false arrest and assault, two of the most likely claims in the business.
"There are some companies out there that are driving around with unmarked vehicles with some semblance of a uniform that doesn't identify who they represent," said Orrock, who has owned Black Hills Patrol since May 2010. "We think our citizens should know who they are dealing with, and our law enforcement should be able to quickly identify who's who."
At Orrock's prodding, the city is now in the midst of considering a series of changes to its regulations for private security companies, including requirements that all guards on patrol drive in vehicles marked "security" and wear badges or patches that identify the name of the company they work for.
The Rapid City Council voted 9-1 last week to approve the first reading of the revised ordinance, which was proposed by a task force of law enforcement officers, people in the security business and citizens. A second reading of the ordinance will be at the Oct. 17 council meeting.
Owners of security companies that participated in the task force, including Orrock, greeted the proposed changes with optimism, saying they should do a lot to improve safety both for the public and law enforcement.
"The language definitely needed to be cleaned up," said Karen Kierstead, who owns Mountain States Security with her husband and served on the task force.
One of the most significant changes in the new ordinance, business owners agreed, is a requirement that all security companies provide proof of at least $1 million in liability insurance, including coverage of claims of false arrest and assault. Most other professions regulated by the city already are required to provide proof of insurance.
"You're foolish if you don't have insurance -- the same way for the client," Kierstead said. "It's good that they're requiring that."
Security companies have long been regulated by the city of Rapid City, and according to the City Finance Office, more than 300 businesses or individuals held active city security licenses as of Sept. 14.
Under the current rules, both individual security guards and security businesses must be licensed by the city, a policy that will continue with the new proposal. The fees would also stay the same -- $50 initially for guards, with $25 renewals, and $150 initially for companies, with $100 renewals - but the licenses would expire every 24 months, rather than every year. Private investigators will also now be required to register and undergo the requisite background check.
The proposal before the city council also lays out clearer regulations for the marking of patrol vehicles and uniforms, rules that would apply to both contract and in-house security guards.
All vehicles used for patrolling between multiple properties would have to be marked with the word "security," and uniform badges or patches would be required to identify the name of the company the guard works for. If patches are not worn, the company name must be displayed on the front or back of the actual uniform shirt.
Kierstead said Mountain States has used marked patrol cars as a matter of policy since it was founded more than 20 years ago.
"It can be constituted as a safety issue for law enforcement so they know we're the good guys," Kierstead said. "If they see a Mountain States vehicle, they know what's going on."
The same can be said for uniforms, Orrock said.
"If there is a complaint or there is an attaboy, people will know who to do that toward," Orrock said. "The police department won't be stuck figuring out who these people are."
Capt. Marty Graves of the Pennington County Sheriff's Office also served on the task force and said it is equally important that people in a crisis do not mistake security guards for police officers or sheriff's deputies.
"It was rewritten well," Graves said. "It cleans it up and makes it more doable for what they do today and what we do today."
Contact Emilie Rusch at 394-8453 or email@example.com.