T outsources security at revenue facility

New firm, G4S, employed suspected Orlando murderer

STATE HOUSE NEWS

FOLLOWING IDENTIFIED VULNERABILITIES at its Charlestown revenue facility, the MBTA shifted security from the MBTA Transit Police Department to the private firm G4S, which is in the news recently for employing the suspected Orlando mass-murderer.

“We took immediate action after a consultant identified very, very serious security lapses that we believed were potentially going to endanger our employees,” MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve told reporters on Monday.

Lt. Michael Rae, president of the Superior Officers Association at the MBTA Police, said the transit agency is “playing games,” and the T police have provided security at the money room since the 1980s.

“This is the first I’ve ever heard of any type of security lapse,” Rae said. He added: “It’s a poor philosophy to outsource police. You can’t put a dollar-value on safety and security and for the most part we were never consulted on this process, which surprises me.”

According to T officials, an expert’s inspection of the facility and review of security tapes found outside gates and doors were all left open at the same time, making it vulnerable to a breach.

The review also determined armed revenue collection agents’ firearms licenses were not regularly checked to see if they were up-to-date, visitors were allowed to enter the facility with minimal or no screening, and security controls on doors were regularly overridden, according to the T.

Speaking during the public comment period of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, Lt. Stephen Salisbury, treasurer for the superior officers association and member of the T police force, noted that MBTA Police officers have regular training and the power of arrest.

“What savings is the MBTA realizing to give up all that? Are they subject to drug testing? Are they subject to self-reporting? If they get arrested over the weekend do they come in and say, ‘Hey lieutenant, I got arrested over the weekend. I can’t carry a firearm’? See these are the things we don’t know,” Salisbury said. He said, “We have no communications with them so if something goes bad and we respond, we’re coming in blind.”

Before weaknesses were identified at the facility, the T had already been considering privatization of cash-handling at the money room, which counts more than $132 million per year in revenue from the T, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the cities of Boston and Cambridge.

According to the T, MBTA Police were paid about $750,000 per year to provide security at the facility in Charlestown’s Sullivan Square while G4S will cost about $400,000 annually. The security group began work June 6 and has a statewide purchasing agreement, according to the T.

G4S acknowledged employing Omar Mateen, who died in a confrontation with police after allegedly murdering at least 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning.

In a statement posted to its website Monday, G4S said Mateen was off-duty during the incident, and was subject to a “detailed company screening when he was recruited in 2007 and re-screened in 2013 with no adverse findings.” The company said Mateen was “subject to checks by a US law enforcement agency with no adverse findings reported to G4S.” Mateen was “employed by G4S at a residential community in South Florida.”

Both Salisbury and Rae said during its first day providing security at the money room, there was a lapse as the security person at the front desk was unarmed and not licensed to carry a weapon.

“The sergeant says to him, ‘Wait a minute, we were sold a bill of goods that you guys were armed security over here, and he’s like, ‘Well, I’m going through the process,'” Salisbury told the board. “So the very first day we had a compromise at the money room.”

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Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

Rae said staffing of the money room is done by sergeants and patrol officers and said about three MBTA Police would be there at any time. He said the change means superior officers are now “handing out firearms to civilians.”

“We don’t know who these people are,” Rae said.