By Katie Akin, Iowa Capital Dispatch
Hy-Vee will employ armed “retail security officers” in stores, the company announced Wednesday.
In a news release, the West Des Moines-based grocer said the officers will be “specially trained to defuse situations and equipped to protect the safety of both Hy-Vee customers and employees.”
Officers have started work in several stores, according to the release. Hy-Vee spokesperson Christina Gayman said the program roll out will continue through 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.
On Thursday morning, two “retail security officer” positions in West Des Moines were open for applications. Applicants are required to have prior experience in law enforcement, the military or at correctional facilities, and they must be eligible or already able to carry a firearm. Applicants will be required to pass a handgun qualification course for the position.
Officer responsibilities center around preventing shoplifting, according to the job posting. The officer would have the authority to monitor the store for theft and to apprehend “individuals engaged in theft activity.” The role also comes with administrative responsibilities, like completing incident reports and making recommendations for stores to prevent theft.
The change was not prompted by increased theft 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 off-duty law enforcement.
“Our goal with this team is to create a consistent look for our security team and approach to customer service and security across all of our stores,” Gayman wrote in an email.
Gayman declined to answer how the responsibilities of the new hires will differ from the third-party guards, but she told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that the officers “will have the same tools that third-party security guards and off-duty law enforcement officers working in a security capacity in our stores already have.”
Retail security officers will undergo a training program “designed by Hy-Vee retail security leaders alongside law enforcement partners.”
Hy-Vee representatives did not respond when asked whether the training includes information about racial bias.
A national Gallup poll conducted this summer found that 35% of Black Americans felt they had been treated unfairly while shopping due to their race. Gallup polls over the last two decades have consistently found Black respondents were most likely to report facing discrimination in stores over other venues, like restaurants and workplaces.