D.C. officials are considering moving school security in-house, after running into continual problems with contracting companies over the years.
The District's auditor estimated Tuesday that 291 full-time guards would cost the city $11.4 million a year -- less than the $18 million annual contract that U.S. Security Associates, which provides personnel at city buildings and public schools, holds with the District. The city also contracts with Securitas USA to patrol its public schools.
But the cost is not the reason District has opened the bidding process for next year. Undercover D.C. police officers were able to repeatedly sneak bombs into local government buildings, according to a memo first obtained by the Service Workers Employees International Union.
Between July 2010 and June 2011, police and recruits documented more than a dozen potential security breaches, including an October 2010 incident when recruits took a "simulated cellphone bomb" past security officers at X-ray machines at two entrances to the John A. Wilson Building, where the mayor and D.C. Council work.
The city's troubled history with security doesn't stop there. Before U.S. Security Associates and Securitas were brought in, the city used Hawk One, fired in 2009 for filling city buildings' schools with poorly supervised, inadequately trained employees who failed to contain violence and tended to fraternize with students, city officials told The Washington Examiner at the time.
In February, at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson asked D.C. Auditor Yolanda Branche to review the merits of contracting out, which is supposed to be done every three years.
"As far as I know, this [review] has never happened," Mendelson said.
Branche responded Tuesday with the cost of paying hourly wages and benefits to 291 guards. The District would hire 269 guards who could not make arrests and 22 who could. None would carry firearms.
The $11.4 million price tag likely would increase with associated costs, such as equipment, training, drug testing and background checks. The District is expecting to make a decision about the contract in June.
Confidence in schools' security guards varied widely on student surveys across D.C. high schools last school year. At Cardozo Senior High School, 44 percent of students said their security officers do a good job patrolling their campus; 84 percent of students at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School said the same.