FPS isn't properly training contract guards, GAO report says

Photo: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - In the aftermath of the Sept. 16 mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, many questions were raised about whether or not other government buildings were prepared to respond to such an event.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office says no.

The GAO's report states many of the armed, private security guards that would be the first on the scene of such a shooting have not been trained for an active shooter scenario. That has Congress demanding answers.

"If somebody is with a firearm in a federal building and we have a PSO (protective security officer) there, nothing here says they will engage him?" Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., asked during a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

“The original mission of the PSO was to ensure the safe egress of the building, it was not to pursue an active shooter,” Said Gen. L. Eric Patterson, the Director of the Federal Protective Service in response to the Senator’s question.

The Federal Protective Service Police oversees security at 9,600 federal buildings nationwide. However, the agency acknowledges it does not have the manpower to put sworn officers in every building.

Instead, FPS hired approximately 13,500 contract guards to man security checkpoints, the report says. The GAO found many weren't trained as screeners and five companies hired by the agency reported their guards were not trained to respond to an active shooter.

"They are going to keep people from coming in, and they are going to help folks to get out," Patterson said. "If they do come in contact with the shooter, they will engage."

However, the report disagrees, finding that the FPS "has limited assurance that its guards are prepared for this threat.”

In response, FPS spokesman Scott McConnell said in a statement that his agency taking steps in line with the GAO report.

“FPS protects more than 9,000 federal buildings and 1.4 million federal employees and visitors who occupy them throughout the country every day. FPS concurs with the recommendations in the GAO report and is taking steps to implement them," McConnell said. "FPS has reviewed the current training provided to contracted PSOs regarding active shooter incidents, and in collaboration with security companies, is determining if additional enhanced training is necessary.

"FPS is also working closely with all contracted security companies to ensure that PSOs receive the appropriate screening training and skills they require to carry out their duties.”

Patterson also says that the agency is now in the process of reviewing the role and training of the PSO in regards to active shooter situations.

It's a concern that ABC News crime and terrorism analyst Brad Garrett says is a huge hole in basic security.

"You are only as good as your front line, and if your front line isn't adequately trained and doesn't know what to do in a crisis situation, you a have a big gap," Garrett said.

Government Accountability Office report