BEI’s IRS uses off-duty police to monitor video

New dealer program offers video monitoring with 'zero false alarms'
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Thursday, April 1, 2010

STAFFORD, Texas—BEI Security, based here, on March 9 announced the formation of a new division and the launch of an attendant dealer network. The new division, BEI Interactive Remote Surveillance, a nationwide video monitoring service featuring real-time video with two-way audio and staffed with off-duty police officers as intervention specialists in official police uniform, promises on its website to deliver “zero false alarms.”

BEI president David Iffergan said he felt BEI’s IRS offering was unique in the industry and would give dealers the value of free training and RMR, and end users the value of eliminated false alarms. “We just put the dealer program together this year and put it on the web, so dealers who want to join can, and we offer them training for free on how to sell this,” Iffergan said. “If we see somebody—a kid who’s not supposed to be there—we can come over the speaker and say, ‘Hey you with the blue shirt and the short pants, what are you doing?’ And they usually disappear. If we see someone there who obviously has bad intent, we don’t come over the speaker, we just dispatch the police and guide them to the exact location of the invader and get them caught.”

An IRS employee who wished to be cited only as officer Thomas, a sergeant from an area police department, said IRS employs officers—some off-duty and some retired—from several different police departments. Further, he said his desire for semi-anonymity stems from an unofficial policy called “no tell, no smell.” Thomas said it was important for officers to work off-duty jobs they want—not always official, police chief-approved extra jobs. “The chief wants to set policies on what they call EJs—extra jobs. The guys have a thing—officers in Texas and elsewhere—you just don’t tell where you’re working in off hours and that way you don’t fall under their policy one way or the other because they haven’t signed off on it. So what happens is—everybody’s getting paid $35 an hour for EJs and the chief says, ‘If everybody’s getting paid $35 an hour, I want you to work my EJs.’ So we say, ‘I’ll work for BEI and I just don’t tell anybody else.’”

Iffergan said intervention by IRS agents was a real differentiator. “In some situations, we can do two-way video—like in a convenience store or a bank—behind the teller or cashier we have a 40- or 50-inch plasma screen. All the staff at our center are police officers who know how to handle situations like this, and they’ll throw their image up on the screen and will talk to the robber.” Iffergan said the “presence” of a live, untouchable authority figure dressed in official police uniform, observing and talking the perpetrator down is often enough to diffuse the situation.

Asked if there were any legal issues that could spring from off-duty officers wearing their uniforms and representing themselves as police through interactive audio and video as part of a private enterprise, industry attorney Les Gold of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp said, possibly. “There’s nothing wrong with an off-duty police officer working in private enterprise as long as he’s allowed to do it by his municipality. The issue is, are they working in any way in conjunction with their city or holding themselves out to be police officers of their city?” Gold said. “If they wear their own uniforms, it could be an issue because it could be misrepresentation.” Thomas said there should be no issue since IRS uniforms, while real police issue, are generic and do not affiliate IRS intervention specialists with any particular police department.

BEI has two other divisions: BEI Perimeter Intrusion Detection Systems for commercial, industrial, homeland security, military, and marine environments, and VUGate, a provider of video visitation solutions and services for the corrections industry.