Columbia replaces security firm

By LauraNalin

Wackenhut Corporation, Columbia’s security partner for the past five years, was replaced by Allied Barton as the college’s primary security firm on Aug. 28.

Allied Barton, the country’s largest provider of contract security, replaced Wackenhut after its contract with Columbia ended on Aug. 16. The college met with various security conglomerates in hopes of finding the perfect fit.

“We developed an interview panel after we made some final selections, and basically only one group was eliminated because they dropped out themselves,” said Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment at Columbia. “We had a cross-section of representation for the college who sat in and interviewed the respective bidders. Based on their credentials, interviews with the panel and proposals put together, we ultimately made the decision to select Allied Barton.”

Robert Koverman, associate vice president of Safety and Security at Columbia, said he is excited about the new alliance with Allied Barton. “The biggest gain for us is the partnership with Allied Barton and their educational experience that they bring to the table,” Koverman said.

Allied Barton is well known for its involvement with higher education institutions throughout the country, said Glenn Rosenberg, vice president of higher education for Allied Barton. She said the security firm works with schools including Columbia University, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, The University of Southern California, Duke University and Vanderbilt University.

“One of the things that we have been really familiar with is working with creative arts institutions,” Rosenberg said. “In fact, one of our largest clients is Savannah College of Art and Design and their campus is very similar to the way Columbia’s is structured.”

Although the security company is changing, 85 percent of the officers who worked on campus as Wackenhut employees will continue to be a part of Columbia’s


“The majority of our existing security officers will remain with us,” Koverman said. “Allied Barton put the employees through the entire selection process as if they were a brand new employee.”

The prospective employees had to go through the formalities of completing new applications with Allied Barton, along with applications to receive the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations card, submit to background checks and drug screenings.

“If they passed and the information was satisfactory, they remain a part of Columbia,” Koverman said.

The Student Government Association has been critical of Wackenhut for quite some time because the corporation has de-unionized its workers. The SGA also felt the security was unsatisfactory.

One security lapse that occurred in the past involved robberies at two Columbia buildings by a man dressed in fraudulent maintenance attire. The man managed to steal copy machines without being asked for proper identification.

Along with making the campus a safer environment, Allied Barton will be taking a greener approach to its business. The guards will be equipped with new hybrid vehicles and will be prepared to ensure the campus is environmentally friendly.

“We’re looking at sustainability as an objective,” Rosenberg said. “Our officers will be reminded of turning lights off on patrols [and] looking for things that may be contributing to inefficient use of energy. We look at not just the security of people, but [also] the safety of the building and making sure that the building systems are operating effectively. A lot of that will ultimately contribute to a more sustainable


Rosenberg was confident the guards will be ready for any security situation that may arise on campus and be able to act appropriately to keep Columbia safe.

“The guards will be tested on a periodic basis as far as what to do in certain situations, and [tested on] at least an annual basis to actually practice,” Rosenberg said. “It’s understanding how to respond to those situations and practicing it before those things happen.”