DTSM has chosen its new security company to replace Covered 6 to patrol the 3rd Street Promenade and Downtown districts Credit: DTSM

In a lengthy, five hour-plus meeting, the Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) board of directors who were gathered at the Third St HQ, along with members of the public and representatives from the Santa Monica Police Department, voted on which new security company would be offered the contract to patrol the Promenade and Downtown districts.

Following the abrupt departure of Covered 6 only hours after the contract had been signed just six weeks or so ago, DTSM voted to move ahead with a request for proposals (RFP) from other similar companies a little over two weeks ago. The decision essentially reset the process back to square one albeit with a tighter deadline for companies to bid on the contract following weeks of uncertainty.

DTSM Operations Director Jeremy Ferguson, along with CEO Andrew Thomas and Chair Eric Sedman, had the unenviable task of painstakingly narrowing down the 20-or-so returns received after the RFP was issued. According to Sedman, they laid out their choices, ranking from one to six, “All three of us had the same number one choice, but we differed completely on our second, third and fourth choices and so on. So it really wasn’t a tough choice for us to bring the first one forward.”

That shared first choice was Legion Corporation, a Fresno-based company formed in 2012 by former San Francisco Police Officer Joseph Shelley. This was the first presentation seen by everyone who attended and while it lacked the captivating showmanship seen when Covered 6 CEO Chris Dunn presented to DTSM on June 15, what was evident was that Shelley offers a wealth of professional, on-the-street law enforcement experience, which is far more important in this instance than strong PowerPoint skills.

Shelly served with the San Francisco Police Department for 11 years before transitioning to the private sector. The company has clients up and down California, Oregon, Washington and even in the UAE and the UK.

The second company to present was Nastec International, a Calabasas-based security firm founded by a gentleman named Sean Ben-Manahem 29 years ago according to their website. Interestingly, this company already works in connection with Covered 6 in patrolling Beverly Hills.

Ben-Manahem wasn’t present at the meeting, instead the succinct, but marketing-leaning presentation was provided by VPs Karen Schakarov and Rick Curiel. Once the presentations were over, the DTSM board had a chance to discuss everything, with some very astute observations being made.

“I felt like the first company was very inward focused. This is what we do. This is how we train. And it was very similar to how many security companies train and operate, whereas I felt the second company presentation was more outward,” said Lora Vrastil, adding, “In other words, these are your goals as we understand. So I think that outward focus is a helpful way to approach this problem.”

What was of particular interest was the input from Ferguson, Thomas and Sedman, since they had spent more time with each of these companies than anyone else.

“During the final steps [of selection], our first presenter reached out to me multiple times. In fact, we’ve met in person five times, they have spent many hours within our business district. They went back and sharpened their pencils and added details to their proposal from data that they had requested from me,” said Ferguson.

“The only time I’ve spoken with Nastec was just their scheduled presentation time. So I can’t speak to what they’ve done to sharpen their pencils or do any investigative work about the business district,” Ferguson added.

Thomas remarked on how comparatively speaking, Nastec didn’t have as much experience in patrolling actual cities. “I want to make sure that we have people here that can do the work and are excited about the work … I don’t appreciate the marketing now that I’ve sat through it twice,” he said, adding, “I think asking these folks [Nastec] to work outside of their comfort zone is a mistake. I think that these are security guards, they’re not homeless, outreach workers.”

However, not everyone on the board was convinced, even now, that this is the direction to go in. “I don’t think having private security will solve the problem that we have,” said Leo Pustilnikov.

Ultimately, a motion was made by Barry Snell to direct staff to execute a contract with Legion Corporation with an option for DTSM to cancel with no more than 45 days notice, if needed, which was seconded by Bruce Fairty. Michele Aronson, Peter Trinh, Joshua Gilman, Susan Cline, Julia Ladd and Luke Cain along with Sedman, voted yes while Leo Pustilnikov and Lora Vrastil voted no.

Lucian Tudor was absent and Ericka Lesley, another board member who has expressed her views against hiring a private security company in the past, was not present for the vote. Specific details on how this deployment will unfold, including staffing, scheduled start date (expected to be sometime in December) and patrol areas, will follow soon and we will bring you those as soon as they’re confirmed.


Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.