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I Am A Security Guard: Profiling

As I checked in on a Sunday night, the Head Guard sat in the office. He said he'd work at the store during half my shift. That would be much longer than usual. The news concerned me. Perhaps he planned to watch me in action.

About 30 minutes later, a young African-American male stepped past me. His frown and black leather jacket gave him a thuggish appearance.

The Head Guard looked at me and tilted his head toward the visitor. We followed as he walked toward the food section. He stopped and grabbed a box of cookies. I figured we did not have to worry. He could not hide it in his jacket. I walked back to my post. A few minutes later, he paid for the snacks.

I stood by the door and thought about the false alarm. What if the customer had accused the store of racial profiling?

One of the risks of my position is defending myself against such a beef. Yet, for three reasons, I block out the danger and concentrate on doing my job.

First, I have a cynical view of human nature. I've read enough newspaper stories and history books to know that people are capable of committing any foul act. Furthermore, I've gotten burned by a few co-workers, friends and relatives over the years. I don't trust many people regardless of background.

Second, I don't let political correctness blind me to reality. Over the years, the store's guards have caught thieves of every age and color. One veteran told me he's nabbed a white priest in the act. Even guards and cashiers, all minorities, have been caught boosting from the store.

Third, my job depends on preventing theft. Given the state of the economy, I'd like to stay employed.

The cookie incident, however, did make me think about the Head Guard's agenda. Truth be told, I don't know him very well. I pondered whether he targets suspects solely on the basis of skin color.

I got my answer later that night.

While standing near the candy aisle, he gave me another head tilt. I walked toward him. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a white male with a backpack walk briskly toward the exit. I put two and two together and headed back to the door to block his way. The Head Guard and an assistant manager converged on him from the rear.

The customer wore a pea coat, jeans and glasses. His expression was quite smug for someone with a pungent body odor.

The Head Guard got down to business. "I saw you with an energy drink and soda," he said to the man. "Where are they?"

"I left them back there," the suspect replied.

The Head Guard sent me to the candy aisle to find the items. I found them on a bottom shelf and showed them to the group.

After inspecting the goods, the Head Guard turned back to the suspect. "Do you have anything else in your bag?" he asked.

"No," the man said. "I don't have to show you my bag, but you can look inside."

The Head Guard accepted the offer. The empty bag confirmed his suspicions. The visitor had planned to load up on goodies. When he saw the Head Guard, he dumped the drinks and broke for the door.

"I don't want to see you in this store anymore," the Head Guard told the suspect.

"Okay." The man left.

The Head Guard grinned in triumph. "I could tell he was planning something," he said to me. "I've got to school you."

He already had. Like me, he'll bust anybody.


A very pseudononymous Jerome Haller earns rent money as a security guard for a large, publicly-held retail chain.


See more tales of security guarding, pizzeria waitressing, barista-ing and office drudgering in the Life at Work collection.


Posted on November 13, 2009

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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