Hy-Vee will employ armed “retail security guards” in stores, the company said on Wednesday.
In a press release, the West Des Moines-based grocer said officers will be “specially trained to defuse situations and equipped to protect the safety of customers and employees of Hy-Vee.”
Agents have started working in several stores, the statement said. Hy-Vee spokeswoman Christina Gayman said the rollout of the program will continue until 2022.
Gayman declined to comment on the specific responsibilities of the new hires or whether the officers would be armed, but job postings on Hy-Vee’s career site reveal more details about the position.
As of Thursday morning, two “retail security guard” positions in West Des Moines were open for applications. Applicants must have prior experience in law enforcement, the military, or correctional facilities, and they must be eligible or already capable of carrying a firearm. Applicants will be required to successfully complete a handgun qualification course for the position.
The agent’s responsibilities are focused on preventing shoplifting, according to the job posting. The officer would have the power to monitor the store in the event of theft and apprehend “persons engaged in theft activity”. The role also comes with administrative responsibilities, such as writing incident reports and making recommendations for stores to prevent theft.
The change was not brought about by an increase in thefts at Hy-Vee – there has been no increase in incidents, Gayman said. Instead, she pointed to Hy-Vee’s existing security infrastructure, which includes third-party security guards and after-hours law enforcement.
“Our goal with this team is to create a cohesive appearance for our security team and an approach to customer service and security across all of our stores,” Gayman wrote in an email.
Gayman declined to answer how the responsibilities of new recruits will differ from those of third-party guards, but she told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that officers “will have the same tools as third-party security guards and law enforcement officers. order out of order working in a security capacity in our stores already have.
Retail security officers will complete a training program “designed by leaders in retail security Hy-Vee alongside law enforcement partners.”
Hy-Vee representatives did not respond when asked if the training included information on racial prejudice.
A national Gallup poll conducted this summer found that 35% of black Americans felt they were treated unfairly when shopping because of their race. Gallup polls over the past two decades have consistently found that black respondents were the most likely to report experiencing discrimination in stores compared to other places, such as restaurants and workplaces.