By the time Jake Meehan quit his job as an Allied private security guard at TD Garden, he said he had complained to his supervisors at least three times about the abuse of the homeless inside North Station.
Other guards routinely shoved, kicked, and dragged the people who took shelter there, following supervisors’ directive to remove them from the building, he said. Sometimes, guards would ask that surveillance cameras be moved so their actions would not be recorded.
The prevailing attitude was, “If you witnessed it, you don’t report it, you don’t talk about it, it never happened,” said Meehan, 24, who now works in private security. “If you did bring it up, it was, ‘Don’t worry about it. You weren’t involved.’ ”
On Wednesday night, after the Globe presented a host of accusations from Meehan and seven other former Allied security guards, TD Garden president Amy Latimer announced that the Garden will cut ties with the security outfit.
“As you can imagine, it’s absolutely unacceptable to us,” Latimer said. “We’re committed to equal treatment and respect of all patrons. It is just not the way we operate.”
Allied, now known as Allied Universal after a recent merger, did not respond to requests for comment.
Interviews in recent days with eight former security guards, who worked for Allied between late 2009 and late 2016, suggest that management’s directive to eject the homeless left them little choice but to take an aggressive stance with a volatile population. That, in turn, all but guaranteed conflict or physical altercations, they said. In August 2014, Meehan left in disgust.
Last week, the Globe detailed incidents against homeless people by Allied guards who patrol TD Garden and the commuter rail station. In one attack, on Dec. 22, police say a security guard beat a disabled man with his own cane, fracturing his face in two places.
Allied officials last week denied any knowledge of previous police reports that detailed assaults, and guards said managers never explicitly told them to use violence. But o ver time, the guards’ treatment of the homeless became more abusive, interviews with the former guards and court documents showed.
“It was typical practice, preying on the homeless,” former guard Rodney Pittman, who worked for Allied from 2009 until he was fired in 2013, told the Globe following the paper’s initial coverage. “Everybody looks the other way until something really bad happens.”
The push to remove the homeless from North Station, combined with a lack of training, the former guards said, created a toxic culture that placed both homeless people and security guards at risk, and sometimes led to violence.
Two guards said they had warned management about guards assaulting the homeless, but were ignored. Four said they complained to higher-ups about poor working conditions or lack of training, and five said they had seen co-workers carrying knives for protection.
Two former guards, in separate interviews, described the working environment as the “Wild West.”
Accusations that Allied guards were mistreating the homeless came to light after the Globe received an anonymous letter stating that a guard had been caught on camera beating a homeless man, but nothing was being done.
When the Globe found the man, 52-year-old Michael Hathaway, and asked Transit Police about his account, officials reviewed footage of the incident and arrested the guard, Rene Norestant Jr., charging him with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. The Globe also found three other homeless people who filed police reports, alleging abuse by guards, dating back to June 2016.
Transit Police officers and private security both patrol the areas near North Station’s commuter rail platforms, which are located below TD Garden. The Garden is owned by Delaware North and is home to the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics. Delaware North has contracted out its security to Allied Universal, a large national company that has gone by several names because of mergers, for the past 30 years. Allied also provides security for the Globe.
Latimer, responding to the Globe’s questions Wednesday evening, said that TD Garden’s policy for security guards was “hands off” — they were not supposed to touch anyone. Rather, if someone refused to leave, guards were supposed to call 911.
Al though TD Garden had undertaken a review of its security last year, none of the accusations about abuse of the homeless, other than the Dec. 22 incident, had come to light until the Globe presented them, she said.
TD Garden has hired former Boston police commissioner Edward Davis to help see it through a 90-day transition period following the separation with Allied, in which TD Garden will seek a new security provider. Allied will continue to provide security during that time, although officials have already banned its guards from removing people from North Station.
Of the eight former guards who spoke with the Globe, five agreed to be identified, while three spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their professional reputations. Four of the guards had left Allied on their own; four had been fired.
All but one of the guards said they directly witnessed rough treatment of the homeless, including shoving, grabbing, dragging, hitting, or kicking, in an effort to roust them from the building. And each described poor treatment by management, frequent citations for minor violations, and regular 16-hour shifts.
Turnover was high, pay was low, and firings for minor offenses were common, they said.
The bulk of the guards’ duties were to manage the dozens of homeless people who spent their days panhandling, sleeping, or just loitering. While several of the guards said they tried to build positive relationships with the homeless, they all acknowledged that it was often difficult.
Many of the guards are minorities, and some of the homeless hurled racial slurs at them, several guards said. They could be unpredictable, and many were intoxicated. Overdoses were frequent. One guard, who worked for Allied for less than a year in 2016, said he was once called to the scene of three overdoses in three hours.
Guards dealt repeatedly with a group of “regulars,” people they knew by name, had frequently evicted, or had seen overdose. Their relationships were often intense and hostile.
Although clashes with the homeless were an inevitable part of the job, all eight of the guards said they received virtually no training in this area. Some of the guards said they were told during orientation that it was company policy not to put their hands on anyone except in self defense.
But in practice, the guards said, that rule went out the window.
“It was flipped completely the other way around,” Meehan said. “It was, ‘Get ’em out.’ We were told if they weren’t complying, don’t be nice about it.”
Two of the guards who spoke on condition of anonymity said they complained to human resources about poor training or poor working conditions in 2016. Another former guard, Philip Charles Wrencher, complained to management about another guard’s lack of training.
Pittman, as part of an unsuccessful 2013 discrimination complaint filed after he was fired, said the company was “unprepared to handle the daily threats and occasional violence that come from the inebriated individuals and sometimes violent transients.”
Several of the guards said that while the December attack on the man with his cane was horrific, it was not altogether shocking.
“I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner,” said Wrencher, who worked as a guard from 2009 to 2011 before he transferred to another Allied property.
Former guard Cam McGowan, who worked for Allied for several years until he quit in about 2012, said management was well aware of the conflicts between guards and the homeless.
“They knew it was a problem and an issue, and they clearly didn’t do enough,” he said.
Former guard Jennifer Burns worked for Allied from 2010 until 2013, when she was fired after being accused of arguing with a fellow guard, which she denies. During her time at TD Garden, she said she saw guards shove homeless people and grab them by their jacket, but it never rose to serious violence.
Burns and other guards wanted to have far less interaction with the homeless. Like most guards interviewed, Burns said she got radio calls from her boss to remove specific homeless people, even if they weren’t creating a disturbance.
“I talked to the other guards about it — it’s unnecessary,” she said. Still, she complied.
“You want to keep your job, you don’t want to challenge the boss, you don’t want to question authority,” she said.
Ordered to confront unpredictable homeless people, the guards worried about their own safety. Five guards — Burns, Meehan, Pittman, Wrencher, and one guard who spoke anonymously — said they saw other guards carrying knives for protection, though none saw them used. Wrencher said he saw one guard flash his knife in a threatening manner at least once.
Meehan started working at TD Garden in January 2014. By that time, the guards regularly removed the homeless by force, although the large majority of evictions were conducted peacefully, he said.
Guards would drag homeless people on their backs while they slept, he said. Meehan said he watched one guard walk up to a homeless man who had returned to the station after being kicked out, and without saying a thing, shove him so hard in the chest that he was thrown off his feet and crashed onto his back. He also watched the same guard slam a homeless person into a wall after the man called him a Rent-a-cop.
Most of the people targeted for abuse were people who would not fight back, he said. “It was easy,” he said. “[They] could get away with it.”
Meehan said although he went to his bosses at least three times to complain about the violence, he was told to stay out of it. The homeless weren’t going to file complaints anyway, he was told.
Meehan said he witnessed guards sometimes ask for cameras to be moved before interacting with homeless people. Three other former guards — Wrencher and two guards who spoke on condition of anonymity — said they had heard of the practice but never seen it done.
By June 2016, homeless people had begun to file police reports with about alleged assaults by guards. Three reports were filed before the alleged beating of the disabled man in December.
Norestant, the guard charged in that case, did not respond to requests for comment. His attorney, Rachel Grijalvo, said it was too early for her to comment in detail, but noted that all individuals accused of crimes are presumed innocent.
One of the former guards, who was recently fired and spoke on condition of anonymity, said he complained to his bosses after Norestant allegedly beat a homeless man named Michael O’Leary in September of 2016.
Norestant was named in a police report about that alleged incident.
“I thought . . . he shouldn’t work there,” the former guard said.
His bosses brushed him aside, he said. Three months later, Norestant allegedly attacked the disabled man with his own cane.