Improving organizational security by embracing law enforcement

May 22, 2015
Establishing good relationships with public safety officials paramount for businesses

In the aftermath o the recent biker brawl and shooting outside a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas, that left 9 people dead and another 18 injured, much of the attention has focused on the restaurant’s apparent unwillingness to heed warnings from police leading up to the shootout.  According to a story published by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Waco Police Sgt. Patrick Swanton said the incident could have been prevented if the franchise owners of the local restaurant had listened to law enforcement as they had been monitoring biker parties at the location for the past two months and were convinced that violence would eventually erupt.

In a statement provided to news outlets, Twin Peaks said that the management team of the Waco restaurant “chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company” and also failed to uphold the company’s “high security standard.” Subsequently, the company said that it has revoked the location’s franchise agreement. Despite these actions, however, a neighboring restaurant has already filed a lawsuit against the parent company claiming that it has suffered damages as a result of having to close its doors while the investigation into the melee took place.

While the Waco shooting serves as a case study of what can go wrong when businesses fail to establish good working relationships with local law enforcement, this incident is the exception rather than the rule as there are plenty of examples where the exact opposite is true and companies work hand-in-hand with public safety leaders. One such place is Atlanta where the business community, along with local government and public safety officials came together to form the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID) ahead of the 1996 Olympic Games.

The Downtown Improvement District is a public-private partnership that strives to make the downtown Atlanta area a safe, clean and hospital environment for visitors and residents alike. To accomplish this, the organization oversees a variety of initiatives, such as an Ambassador Force program and Operation Shield, a city-wide video surveillance network that integrates cameras from both the public and private sector.

According to David Wardell, vice president, operations and public safety for Central Atlanta Progress and Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, 11 different public safety agencies in the city meet monthly with corporate security executives and personnel from special event venues to share information about ongoing and upcoming events, as well various others problems or concerns that any of the entities involved may be having.

Wardell said that this level of cooperation among the public and private sector in Atlanta really dates back to when the city hosted the Olympics, which brought an unprecedented number of public safety challenges with it.

“I can’t say there has always been this level of cooperation. The different agencies were pretty much autonomous, but since the Olympics and all of the efforts through the years dealing with 9/11 and various weather-related events, the spirit of cooperation among the city, county, state, local municipalities, and the private sector has grown,” said Wardell.

In the time he has spent with ADID, Wardell said that the relationship between law enforcement and the business community has been very good. Additionally, Wardell said law enforcement realizes the tremendous asset that private sector organizations given the resources that they are able to provide.

“They don’t have the stringent, bureaucratic procurement procedures. They don’t need stringent accounting or justification (to make purchases). They have the ability, within their means, to purchase things, rent things or whatever they need to help in the total effort,” explained Wardell. “Law enforcement has always appreciated the contributions of the private sector.”       

Wardell said that it is also important for businesses to have someone who can serve as a liaison between them and local public safety and government officials. In fact, Wardell said that the idea behind downtown improvement districts involves businesses essentially taxing themselves to provide enhanced city services, particularly in public safety and public works, and having someone to serve as their voice in the community.  

“Therefore, someone represents the private sector to the government and the government back to the private sector – dealing with city council, dealing with getting police presence, and working with police to enhance security and public safety in the downtown area,” added Wardell.

All things considered, the formation of the ADID and the resulting collaboration that has taken place between the public and private sector has been a resounding success in Atlanta.

“It has always been, in my eyes, a good success story,” he said. “For instance, during the tornado in 2008, we had 35,000 people downtown for the college basketball championship and the next morning roads were closed, you couldn’t get out and there were barricades up for weeks. The private sector worked with the public sector to advise people and get supplies in here and food to the restaurants and hotels. During the ice storms when you’re really immobilized, that’s when you really have to pull together. We’ve had significant events that have bonded us, if you will.”     

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.