IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – They have badges and they can carry guns. They also drive vehicles that look so similar to police cars that many people have a hard time telling the difference.
A security company operating in Irving has one state representative trying to change the law to force the company to change their look.
When Representative Linda Harper-Brown spotted one of the security cars last year, she tried to catch up to it, thinking it was a newly-designed police unit. “When I approached it, I found it was a private security firm and that really bothers me,” the Republican lawmaker said Wednesday in Austin.
The car displays the words “Statewide Patrol” accompanied by a logo of a five-point star badge. The model mimics the same vehicles driven by highway patrol officers. “There should be a clear distinction between law enforcement vehicles and other vehicles on the road and I think that line has been crossed,” Harper-Brown said.
The company Harper-Brown is referring to is Statewide Patrol, Inc. It’s a licensed security company that has operated for several years in Irving, Austin and San Antonio.
Its website advertises uniforms that closely resemble law enforcement uniforms. The site also claims statewide patrol officers will apprehend and arrest suspects.
“You’re going to get sued,” said Walt Roberts, who runs AS&I security in Dallas. “You’re going to get put out of business by the public.”
Roberts is also vice president of a Texas security trade group called ASSIST. The trade group once kicked a company out because it appeared very similar to an actual police department.
State law says logos can’t include the word police or have a seal that includes the Texas flag. Patches on security uniforms also have to be approved by the state.
Roberts said the subtle differences could be confusing to the public and dangerous to security officers, because many are trained for only 40 hours before they are certified. “If something goes down, I want to call the police,” Roberts said. “They’re quick to deal with it. They will come and deal with it much more harshly than my people.”
CBS 11 visited Statewide Patrol’s Irving office to ask about the uniforms and cars. We also made several phone calls to their president, but never received a response.
The company is a registered member of ASSIST. The group president said he is aware of the issue and will discuss next month at a meeting.
The bill to restrict decals, logos and the wording on security cars was stalled in a committee, even though the industry supported the bill.