Friday, March 29, 2013

Local CVS Security Guard Makes WP

A reader alerted me (Thanks Pat!) to a Washington Post column by Petula Dvorak that praises the "[c]alm, common sense, and compassion" of Starburst Intersection CVS security guard Louisa Harris. [Ed. Note: Everything below is based entirely on my reading of Ms. Dvorak's piece.] Dvorak's column contrasts the way that Harris dealt with an unruly customer who opening, and willingly, consumed goods in the store that she refused to pay for (she said she had only a dollar and the Sprite and Slim Jim would exceed that amount), with the behavior off duty MD police officers (working security at the time) dealing with a man who had down syndrome and wanted to watch a movie in the theater a second time (he had just watched the same film, and had purchased a ticket for the immediately previous showing).

Harris handled the situation by talking the woman down even as the woman screamed and loudly berated the security guard. She got her out of the store without an arrest, or any sort of physical confrontation. The situation in Maryland did not end so benignly. When 26 year old Robert Ethan Saylor refused to yield his seat (his aide had gone to the car, and was not present to purchase another ticket for Mr. Saylor) theater employees called in security. Mr. Saylor did not like to be touched, and panicked when he saw the officers coming at him. An altercation occurred, the off duty officers cuffed him, and all four parties fell to the ground. Mr. Saylor suffocated while restrained on the floor.

All of this lead Ms. Dvorak to ponder whether the movie theater situation might have ended differently if the officers had employed an approach more similar to that used by Ms. Harris. Having been to that CVS many times, I'm quite certain that this was not the first time that Ms. Harris has been forced to deal with a difficult customer.

I don't know much at all about the Saylor case, but I find the CVS story interesting in itself just from having shopped there many times over the years. I'm glad to know that we have such a quality security guard working at that store. Often I hear complaints from people about employees/customer service at District stores. These are quite often justified. But here I see a story that goes against that grain (Ms. Harris may have been employed by someone other that CVS, I don't know), and I like that.

BTW, Dvorak also mentions that Ms. Harris is not a security guard by trade. She used to work as a librarian at a law firm, until she was laid off. She's been working as a security guard to pay the bills for about a year and a half.


Anonymous said...

If your definition of a "high quality security guard" is one who doesn't prevent people from stealing, then, well, I guess that's a high quality security guard. Yeah, it's good for officers to use the least amount of force necessary, but it's crazy that people are allowed to just walk in and steal what they feel like in front of the security guard, leaving without an arrest.

Anonymous said...

According to the article, the woman had may have had mental problem and was creating a disturbance. The guard dealt with her as best she could without crating a bigger disturbance.

pat said...

The Guard had three choices.

1) Summon police and invoke the Criminal Justice system.

2) Escalate into a personal confrontation.

3) Ignore.

Seems like she took a fourth choice.

Do the police need to be involved in every bad sitation? Should a fight over a dollar or two escalate?

Hopefully this woman is now barred from the property and they can try and avoid her entering.