Security guards in Illinois fired guns at least 37 times in seven years, killing 11 people. The Chicago Tribune could find no case in which the state disciplined a guard for a shooting.
Unlike police officers, who have faced intense scrutiny over excessive force, the growing industry of private security guards often operates unwatched and unchecked, the Chicago Tribune reports. State regulators issue licenses to guards but exercise little oversight over what amounts to a massive, shadow police force that Illinois businesses, neighborhoods and citizens increasingly rely on for day-to-day safety. In the last seven years, the Tribune could not find a single case where the state disciplined a guard for his or her role in a shooting. Illinois regulators don’t even track incidents where guards fire guns. Training requirements are extremely limited — even barbers must complete more classroom time — and Illinois has set no standards for the use of force.
Using state and police records, court documents and media reports, the Tribune found that Illinois guards fired their guns in work-related incidents at least 37 times since April 2011. Eleven people died in these shootings, including a 20-year-old woman who was shot in the head as two security guards at a Chicago liquor store fired a barrage of bullets at a fleeing SUV. Illinois law requires security companies to report shootings to the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, the agency that licenses guards. The agency then can open an investigation to determine if the guards remain fit for duty. The Tribune found 11 shootings since April 2011 that were not reported as required, and none of the firms was disciplined by the state. The number of licensed security workers in Illinois — a category that includes locksmiths and private detectives in addition to guards — has grown by 20 percent over the last decade. The number of working security guards nationwide reached 1.1 million last year, almost double the total for police officers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.