Police and law enforcement officers go through extensive background checks and psychological evaluations before being hired but state law requires no such evaluations for security guards.
The hiring practices of High Sierra Patrol, a local company, which the city uses to patrol Regan Beach, the Campground by the Lake and Bijou Community Park, have come under fire after the death of a 16-year-old South Lake Tahoe boy.
Security Guard Thomas O'Connor is accused of shooting Brad Parent in the chest Feb. 9 with a gun he was given by the company. A lawsuit filed by the victim's mother claims that High Sierra is to blame.
"They really don't go through any psychological testing," said David Barrett, a former police officer and president of a large private security firm in Sacramento. "And it would cost a fortune to give each employee one."
A criminal background check is done when security guards apply for a gun permit.
"You get what you pay for," he said. "People (who hire guards) should blame themselves because they are not willing to invest in better security."
The owner of High Sierra Patrol, Pat Brennen, did not return phone messages.
O'Connor told investigators he was given 12 hours of classroom and shooting range training before he was issued the gun.
Sgt. Tom Conner said the South Lake Tahoe Police Department looks deeply into the past of any potential employee, who also is required to meet with psychologists before becoming a police officer.
Barret said that is often not possible for private companies.
"It is really sad that the employer does not have control of people when they leave work," he said. "All they can do is hope that he will maintain his responsibility to the community."