Recent Articles

Private Armed Guards in Bellingham

This is not a new phenomenon in our city.

This is not a new phenomenon in our city.


About 12 years ago, I reported here on an armed guard from a private security company, G4S, hired by Bank of America's branch located at Holly St. and Cornwall Ave. (Bellingham Bank of America hires security guard) This was the time of the world-wide movement, Occupy. So in great fear and trepidation, the bank put this poor fellow (below) at its front door, armed with a revolver. Since that time, the bank has enclosed the entire entryway in glass. That will keep those 99% rabble out!

Photo: Dick Conoboy

The other day, as I walked into Home Depot, I noted an armed guard from a private security firm at the front door. Then I came home and read Ralph Schwartz's article in the Cascadia Daily News, "Bellingham stores beef up security in response to rising crime." The sight of this armed  guard, whose uniform was scarcely distinguishable from that of a real police officer,  rather shocked me because it differed in a major way from the “greeters” (mostly retirees) who used to be hired to welcome customers with a smile, a cheery “hello,” and a knowledge of where to find just about any item. Now you encounter a Barney Fife wannabe. I know that by and large these private guards are just trying to make a living, even at today's miserable minimum wage, but who wants to be remembered for taking a bullet for “the cause” — the cause being Home Depot and a $300 chainsaw? Or, for that matter, ending up killing some gun rights dilettante with an open or concealed carry license, who impulsively pulls HIS gun/HER gun. No time for chit-chat.  

Bang Bang!


So just what are the rules of engagement? My article from 12 years ago asked just that question. Nobody answered, including the police. 

"It appears the guard [at Bank of America] is only there during business hours, however, his presence raises several issues, the first of which is the problem of the "rules of engagement" under which he operates with respect to his weapon (in this case a pistol.) In other words, to what extent can he draw that pistol? What specific acts may occasion the use of deadly force? What authority does he have with respect to citizens walking on the public sidewalk? Can he ask for identification from those entering the bank? Can he search packages? Purses? Do customers have to obey his directions? Inquiring minds want to know." 

And just who are these guards? What is their training?  

The legal requirements are outlined on a page at the Washington Department of Licensing: Laws and rules: Security guards. These regulatory efforts, outlined below, do not instill confidence that these “security” hires have anywhere near the amount of training for close encounters of the deadly kind.   

"…2) All security guards licensed on or after July 1, 2005, must complete at least eight hours of preassignment training, comprised of at least four hours of classroom instruction and an additional four hours of classroom instruction or individual instruction, or both. The preassignment training may be waived for any individual who was most recently employed full time as a sworn peace officer not more than five years prior to applying to become licensed as a private security guard and who passes the examination typically administered to applicants at the conclusion of the preassignment training.

(3)(a) All security guards licensed on or after July 1, 2005, must complete at least eight hours of initial postassignment training that shall be administered to each security guard. The initial postassignment training must be in the topic areas established by the director and may be classroom instruction or individual instruction, or both. A company may waive the initial postassignment training for security guards already licensed who transfer from another company, if the security guard presents appropriate training records signed by a department-certified trainer from the previous company, or a signed affidavit that the individual has already completed the required initial postassignment training provided by his or her previous company."   [Chapter 18.170 RCW SECURITY GUARDS]

Two days (2x8 hrs.) of training plus some sort of licensing from the “commission” to carry a gun. One could do a one hour stand-up comedy routine with this. Then the recruit must undergo a local law enforcement agency check and a fingerprint check with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My apologies, but I am not making this up. That is all it takes to be an armed security guard who is ostensibly ready to deal with the public in challenging confrontations. Consider then that police officers, who must receive months and months of training through a police academy,  still fuck up relations with the public with deadly results.  

This from the San Francisco standard on 4 May 2023:  Walgreens Killing: Here’s What We Know About Banko Brown’s Shooting by a Security Guard

Banko Brown

"Banko Brown, 24, was unarmed when the security guard shot and killed him outside the drugstore near Market and Fourth streets last Thursday [27 April 2023]  Police Chief Bill Scott told the Police Commission on Wednesday.

“An altercation broke out when the security guard, Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, tried to stop Brown for shoplifting, the chief said. Anthony, 33, was still inside the store when Brown stepped outside and turned toward him. Brown then allegedly spit on the security guard and raised his arm toward him before Anthony drew his gun and fired, Scott said.” 

Try to steal a candy bar, spit, and raise your hand. Summary punishment: Death. Conclusion: Don't mess with Barney Fife.

Private Armed Guards in Bellingham

By Dick ConoboyOn May 10, 2023

This is not a new phenomenon in our city.

The Long History of Corporate Fraud and Abuse in Medicare

By Guest WriterOn May 05, 2023

[The following is reprinted from The Retiree Advocate, monthly newsletter of Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA). &...

1 comment, most recent 11 months ago

Restoring Health of Land and Water—Bellingham Style

By David Netboy On Apr 30, 2023

Toxic waste, scrap recycling, jarring noise, and dubious processes on the waterfront: How did this happen?

10 comments, most recent 8 months ago

City Council Review of Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance

By Dick ConoboyOn Apr 25, 2023

A review and update of Bellingham’s rental registration and inspection program is long overdue.

10 comments, most recent 11 months ago

Whatcom Democrats Are Pro-Jail?!

By Jon HumphreyOn Apr 19, 2023

Moreover, is a new jail of any size necessary?

2 comments, most recent 11 months ago

How Would Abortion Ban Impact Whatcom County?

By David A. SwansonOn Apr 17, 2023

In 2020, there were 464.29 abortions per 1,000 pregnancies among women aged 15-19 in Whatcom County.

3 comments, most recent 3 months ago

It Always Comes Back to the Toxic Sludge

By David Netboy On Apr 15, 2023

David Netboy contends “business as usual” is no longer acceptable, and here’s why.

15 comments, most recent 11 months ago

The Other Side of the Scrap Pile

By Doug KarlbergOn Apr 14, 2023

Long-time Port watcher, Doug Karlberg, suggests a different point of view on the waterfront scrap pile.

5 comments, most recent 10 months ago

Ban All Firearms

By Dick ConoboyOn Apr 10, 2023

Ban them all. Forever. Every single, solitary firearm in the U.S.

18 comments, most recent 11 months ago


By Guest WriterOn Apr 03, 2023

Including others when developing solutions is a hallmark of leadership. It was not evident at the March 13th City Council meeting regarding new drug use sanctions.

7 comments, most recent 1 year ago

Port Priorities Subvert Their Own Plan

By David Netboy On Apr 01, 2023

David Netboy writes: So how, exactly, does ABC Scrap Metal “restore the health of the land and water” on our waterfront?

11 comments, most recent 1 year ago

Wildflowers in Santa Ynez

By Guest WriterOn Mar 15, 2023

Garrett O’Brien guest writes. And just how do we get out of this housing mess?

21 comments, most recent 1 year ago

Public Banking Bill Fails In Committee

By Dick ConoboyOn Mar 13, 2023

The Senate Committee on Business, Financial Services, Gaming & Trade failed to vote the bill out of committee, but it can be revived in the second year of the biennium.

Growth of Medicare’s ACO Reach Scam Halted

By Dick ConoboyOn Mar 12, 2023

The program appears to be dying of self-inflicted wounds that were long predicted. Supporters stiffened their spines instead, ignoring the obvious blood loss.

11 comments, most recent 11 months ago

Rise of Medicare Advantage – Creation of a Myth

By Guest WriterOn Mar 06, 2023

Millions of Medicare recipients have already been schnookered into Medicare Advantage. Don’t be a victim. Fight back.

6 comments, most recent 1 year ago

Call To Action On Medicare (Dis)Advantage!

By Dick ConoboyOn Mar 02, 2023

If we do not speak out NOW on the privatization of Medicare, the system will effectively be eaten alive from within.

3 comments, most recent 1 year ago

NWCitizen Journalist Down, But Certainly Not Out

By NWCitizen ManagementOn Feb 28, 2023

Stoney Bird, local writer and activist, was severely injured in a fall at this home. He has helped many. Now it is our time to return the support.

3 comments, most recent 1 year ago

A Cruel Joke From The VA and Congress

By Dick ConoboyOn Feb 27, 2023

At least with a real joke, you get to laugh. Here, the government seem to laugh at you.

7 comments, most recent 1 year ago

Atul Explains Vote Against Jail Recommendations

By Guest WriterOn Feb 24, 2023

Atul Deshmane explains his dissenting vote on the new jail recommendation report of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee to the County Council

9 comments, most recent 1 year ago

TAGNW Recaptured By Big Telecom

By Jon HumphreyOn Feb 22, 2023

With the loss of Michael Gan, TAGNW has become a puppet organization of big telecom that is aggressively working against the public interest.

4 comments, most recent 1 year ago