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Hahn Orders Security Check at DWP

The mayor acts after a report pointing to vulnerability at power plants and reservoirs. LAPD counterterrorism unit will play a key role.

August 13, 2004|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Troubled by a report suggesting lax security at Department of Water and Power facilities, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn on Thursday directed the LAPD counterterrorism unit to conduct an immediate assessment to determine where protections can be improved.

Hahn and Police Chief William J. Bratton were responding to a DWP report in which agency security employees said the city's reservoirs and electric plants were vulnerable to terrorist attack because the department was not adequately screening, training and overseeing the people it hired to guard the facilities.

"Today I am directing Chief Bratton and his counterterrorism experts to thoroughly review security procedures at LADWP from top to bottom because I want to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect our vital resources ... ," Hahn said.

The mayor said the Los Angeles Police Department could help by doing background checks on DWP security workers and training them in anti-terrorism methods.

John Miller, the LAPD's counterterrorism chief, joined Hahn and other city officials at a news conference at DWP headquarters, at which Miller said his office had been working with the agency for more than a year to improve security.

In addition, DWP board member Silvia Saucedo announced that the agency was seeking bids from private security firms to do a second analysis of security at the utility's facilities.

A study done two years ago suggested $132 million in security improvements, and Hahn said the DWP is still putting those in place.

City Councilman Jack Weiss said he would introduce a motion today to have the DWP hire a private consultant to review security practices, as well as to direct the LAPD to conduct background checks on security guards.

The report that sparked alarm Thursday resulted from a series of focus groups that a private consultant conducted with DWP security workers in which employees complained that the backgrounds of new guards were not thoroughly checked, keys to reservoirs were handled loosely, training was lacking and guards often had to patrol remote sites alone with inadequate communications equipment.

The DWP employs about 200 security officers and contracts for 100 more to guard its scattered power plants, reservoirs and transmission lines.

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