Security firm defies ‘onerous’ bureaucracy

No courses available locally makes life difficult for both the company and a potential security guard

William Toulmin is willing to take his chances of a $575 fine. As the Victoria branch manager of United Protection Services, he has a job to fill, an employee willing to work but no ability to get the necessary licence on time.

“I’m going to send her to work and we’ll see what happens,” Toulmin said.

Sandra Isaak took the required 40-hour security basic training online through the Justice Institute of B.C. She completed the $315 course on Jan. 15, but when she tried to schedule an exam, was told there were none available.

While several companies in town are authorized to provide the course, only the Justice Institute is authorized to conduct the exams.

Isaak learned in late January that the next available exam date would be Feb. 16.

That’s not the end of her wait, however.

Exams take one to three weeks to process, followed by a three- to four-week wait for a licence.

“All this for an $11 to $12 job,” said Toulmin.

Because security guards make so little, the wait for a job can mean the difference between living in a car or not, he added.

In Vancouver, examinations are offered every Saturday but in outlying areas they run less often, said Karen English, the Justice Institute’s manager of security training programs.

While the company tries to accommodate students, exams must be run on a cost-recovery model, she said.

It’s not an explanation Isaak accepts.

“Who is going to pay for my lost wages because there was work that I have missed that my boss was covering and burning himself out doing it  because I can’t work without a licence?” Isaak asked in an e-mail to the institute.

She was considering travelling to Vancouver to take the exam, but feels she shouldn’t have to pay the extra cost.

Toulmin said the lack of timely examinations, certification and licensing in Victoria has also contributed to a rash of $575 violation tickets in the city.

In 2010, the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued more than a dozen tickets to companies employing or engaging unlicensed security guards.

Some of those tickets were due simply by a failure to renew a licence.

Others were due to people choosing to take shifts as security guards while waiting to get licenced, said Toulmin.

rholmen@vicnews.com