Board faces ‘flood’ of guard applications

The Board of Private Detectives and Guards continued to review hundreds of security guard applications over the weekend as officials work to comply with the state’s new licensing law.

“We’re still working overtime,” Executive Officer Charlene Tamanaha said. “Even though the deadline has passed, we’re still trying to get to all the applications.”

Operating under the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, the board received 354 applications on Saturday and Sunday, with most of them (326) from Oahu, she said.

Three applications were filed on Maui at the Business Action Center in the Maui Mall.

The revised law for guard licensing went into effect on Monday. It requires all people working in a guard capacity to undergo a total of 12 hours in classroom and on-the-job training, as well as a background check.

The board has received about 6,000 applications so far, with 3,728 processed or waiting for review, and 2,000 pending processing, said Brent Suyama, communications officer with the DCCA.

“We went from a trickle to a flood, pretty much,” he said of the influx in applications last month and over the weekend. “It’s a lot different when an agency drops a hundred applications at one time, than when they trickle in consistently.”

Using state labor statistics, the DCCA estimates that there are about 10,000 security guards in Hawaii. However, the number may be inaccurate because of the method used to derive it, Suyama said.

Last week, the board ordered guards to stop working if they did not meet all the requirements of the new law and submit an application before the Monday deadline. They were told not to work until they have been approved and issued a guard registration card. Those who submitted an application before the deadline were allowed to continue working without a registration card or complete approval.

With the increased number of applications, Suyama said it is difficult to say when an applicant might expect approval.

“It’s hard to say right now because we’re still wading through this backlog of forms,” he said. “Obviously we’re working as fast as we can to get to them, but it would depend on whether or not you have a case that has anything that needs to be reviewed by the board.”

Background checks, which include criminal and psychiatric evaluations, typically take the longest because each case is reviewed individually, he said.

“The board may review the case and have questions that require a response back from the applicant,” he said. “We have quite a few people who don’t normally review applications helping around here . . . It’s a major team effort.”

While there were those who applied before the deadline and were allowed to continue working without proper registration, Suyama acknowledged that if their applications are subsequently denied they may have worked illegally. The DCCA is still deliberating over any consequences, but he said they have not denied any applications.

Enforcement of unlicensed guards is supervised by the department’s Regulated Industry Complaints Office, although its jurisdiction extends only over independent companies. Guard companies are required to provide a list of all their employees to the department semi-annually, Tamanaha said.

“There might be fines or disciplinary actions for the guard company,” she said of possible offenders. “Otherwise, it will be imposed on the actual individual.”

In response to the increased regulation and requirements for security guards, Suyama is urging people who may be concerned about their criminal records to continue applying past the deadline.

“It truly is looked at on a case-by-case basis so they shouldn’t be hesitant to turn in their application,” he said of the background checks. “We don’t think people should be punished for something that happened five to 10 years ago.

“We’re not looking to put people out of work.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at