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Discomfort Grows as Denver Hires Allied Private Security Guards to Patrol Emergency Coronavirus Homeless Shelters

Denver will pay a security company up to $4 million to oversee two massive shelters for people experiencing homelessness, raising concerns from community leaders and elected officials about privacy and safety.

On Monday, the city government contracted with California-based Allied Universal Security, a company with multiple contracts in the city — and a history of employees beating people up at Union Station and Boston’s North Station — to patrol emergency shelters at the National Western Complex and Denver Coliseum.

The contract will fund 21 security guards, who aren’t allowed to get physical with residents at either shelter, the agreement states. Kami Johle, director fo administration for Denver General Services, told City Council members Monday that “absolutely no weapons” will be carried by the guards. She characterized the security guards as “customer service even though they’re in a uniform.”

However, the responsibilities of Allied guards extend far beyond showing people where the bathroom is. According to the contract, the contractors will also check bags, support enforcement of shelter rules, patrol the area for drug and alcohol use, and guard areas from unauthorized entry. Guards will be posted around the shelter, including near the showers, the contract states.

National Western can house up to 600  men. The Denver Coliseum can hold up to 300 women.

Councilwomen Jamie Torres and Candi CdeBaca questioned the company’s history, which includes a severe beating.

CdeBaca wondered why the government chose Allied, which is being sued after two of its guards, Taylor Taggart and Victor Diaz, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the beating of local artist Raverro Stinnett in a Union Station bathroom. The lawsuit says Stinnett suffered a permanent brain injury.

“This is a case that was pretty high profile because of the permanent brain damage sustained,” CdeBaca said, “and so it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the city going with this provider knowing what happened in this case, even from an outsider’s perspective.”

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