On September 1, just one week after their start date, a guard working for the security contractor hired by SAM, Star Protection Services, paid an Unhoused man to steal the belongings of another Unhoused person, who has been a longtime resident of the Seattle Art Museum area. On September 4, SAM workers informed SAM leadership of this incident and provided evidence, and management promptly fired the Star Protection Services contractors and terminated the contract.
In a September 4 email informing SAM staff of the theft, Amada Cruz wrote that hiring Star Protection Services as private security “was not meant to antagonize our unhoused neighbors” and that she “went to the museum to find [S]* and to apologize to her for her experience, but she was not there.”
(*Note: SAM workers are referring to this neighbor as “S” to protect her identity.)
Cruz’s email failed to mention that earlier that day, SAM security and Star Protection Services contractors had called the police on S, after harassing her daily for the past week, and S had been forced off of the premises as a result. To hide this fact, head of SAM security, Danielle Nicas, removed access to the incident reports for many staff members, and deleted the text of the report itself. SAM workers feel that leadership needs to take responsibility for the ways police and security have traumatized S and other Unhoused neighbors at their behest.
There has been an increase in negative interactions with Unhoused people, in general, since Cruz became director. However, in just a week, SAM incident reports revealed Star Protection Services contractors had more than twice as many negative, or actively hostile interactions, even though they did not file reports on every interaction, as is required of SAM staff.
This finding is historically consistent with other private security contractors hired by SAM, such as the Allied Universal Security contractors, at Olympic Sculpture Park, who have far more negative recorded interactions than SAM security workers with Unhoused and housed community members alike. Known incidents involving Olympic Sculpture Park staff include having a man arrested in March 2020 for taking change out of the fountain, calling the police on people for exercising, following an Unhoused person to his encampment, and allowing an open-carry firearms rally to continue in June of 2020, with approval by Nicas.
Firing the three young employees of color from Star Protection Services for the actions of one person isn’t justice. It’s an attempt to cover for the unethical decisions and biases of SAM’s rich, white leadership. Decolonize SAM believes it would be reasonable and kind of the museum to offer SAM visitor services officer positions to the two Star employees who did not engage in misconduct.
We are of course glad the security contract has been terminated, but without taking responsibility for its mistakes, or assurance of an actual change in policy moving forward, we remain disappointed in Cruz and the board of directors.
Since the termination of SAM's contract with Star Protection Services, we have created a detailed list of demands regarding policy change. Read about those demands here: