Many unarmed guards must use their personal cell phones to communicate with supervisors

October 27, 2021

By David Rowe, Associate Editor, with reporting from Luke Wrin Piper, Editor-in-Chief, and Leticia Luna, Managing Editor

The unarmed security guards at the Peralta campuses interviewed by The Citizen lack basic two-way communication devices and must rely on their personal cell phones to report incidents.

Interviews with security guards working for Marina Security Services at the Laney and College of Alameda campuses revealed that only the supervisors are issued walkie talkie devices that enable them to contact the dispatch center. The regular security guards we spoke with must either use their personal cell phones or physically locate the supervisor to report any incidents.  This is problematic, particularly at the Merritt campus which is known for its spotty cell phone reception.  A Citizen reporter visiting the campus recently had no signal on his Verizon cell phone. 

The Citizen also learned at least one Marina security guard at Laney was not provided with a chair or protection from the elements. The guard had to pull their car onto campus so they could find shelter from the rain without leaving their post. 

We are not revealing the names of the security guards who spoke with The Citizen to avoid possible reprisals from their employer. 

Since August 11, Marina has been the sole security vendor providing protective services for the Peralta college campuses and district offices. Those responsibilities had previously been split between Marina and A1 Protective Services until the district decided to consolidate with a single vendor. Marina’s initial contract with the district, dated November 17, 2020, was for $1.5 million.  That just covered dispatching services. Subsequent revisions of the contract reflecting Marina’s expanded responsibilities have not been released by the district. PCCD issued a $257,378 check to Marina on August 12, 2021, according to a warrant report approved by the Board of Trustees at its September 28 meeting. 

A pair of Motorola walkie talkies can be purchased for as little as $79 on, although communication equipment for security professionals would presumably be more expensive. The Peralta contracts with Marina and the other security vendors require them to “walk the assigned campuses with two-way communication devices.”

This comes as the number of crimes on or near the Peralta campuses is increasing. In an email to the Laney community on September 24, Rudy Besikof, President of Laney College, reported “an individual on the Laney campus had belongings snatched from their person” on September 22.. Two days later, on September 24, “two individuals were victims of a robbery/assault…across the street from the Laney campus,” according to Besikof’s email.  More generally, the city of Oakland has experienced dramatic increases in homicide, shootings, and robberies in 2021, according to police statistics reported by KRON-TV on September 2. 

The Citizen reached out to Paul Llanez, the CEO of Knowledge Saves Lives, a consulting firm retained by the Peralta Community College District (PCCD) to advise on its security procedures. Llanez is also serving as the acting Director of Safety for the district until someone is hired to fill that position, which has been vacant for over a year. 

In an email to The Citizen, Llanez said the district is “working with project managers in regards to software upgrades for communication platforms” but declined to provide further details on “who has radios or what platforms security staff use” since he considers this to be “tactical information and not something I recommend the district share with the general public.”  Llanez cited California government code section 6254 which exempts public agencies from disclosure requirements “if the public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

The Citizen also contacted Sam Tadesse, the CEO of Marina Security Services. In his email response, Tadesse offered assurances that “communication is very important to us.”  He went on to say his company is “continually looking to improve the ways we communicate between Marina and the District and colleges and, within Marina, between the dispatch team, supervisors, and our security staff.”  Tadesse declined to provide specifics “regarding tactics and equipment” citing the same California code section referenced by Llanez.

The careers page of the Marina website shows openings for security guards, campus door monitors, and campus shift supervisors in Oakland. These positions start at $18 per hour and require a California Guard Card and that applicants pass a criminal background check and drug test. One of the listed responsibilities is the creation of daily reports using Track Tix (sic) software on a mobile device. The Citizen asked Tadesse how many Peralta students have been hired to work for his firm but he did not respond.