By Jorge Casuso
September 29, 2023 -- A tip sent to Downtown officials Thursday from an encrypted email server quickly unraveled a security program to patrol the Promenade that was months in the making.
Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) officially confirmed late Friday afternoon that Covered 6 had terminated its $1.7 million agreement to provide round-the-clock security patrols on the struggling strip.
The security firm, Downtown officials wrote, "will not commence services this month" under a one-year pilot program approved by both the DTSM Board and the City Council.
"The DTSM Board will schedule a special meeting to determine the next steps as they endeavor to enhance public safety and supplement the services provided by the Santa Monica Police Department."
The email sent via Proton Mail by "Geri Brookings" provides links to "comments, hashtags and other information" that indicate an alleged Covered 6 employee or representative is "anti-LGBTQ" and an outspoken conservative.
"What kind of company has DTSM hired, and what vetting process did the City of Santa Monica or Downtown SM use?" the email said.
"Why can't $1.7 million go towards funding more police for downtown instead of this company? You all voted unanimously for them, and now you're getting a nice group of Conservative Trump supporters."
DTSM CEO Andrew Thomas said he asked the company's principal, Chris Dunn, to provide information and issue a statement responding to the allegations made in the email.
Dunn said the person in question, Bryce Eddy, is not a Covered 6 employee or representative and agreed to provide a statement that the company shares Santa Monica's values, Thomas said.
Thirty minutes later, Dunn called back and told him the company wanted to withdraw from the contract, said Thomas, who informed the board that evening.
"Everyone was disappointed," he said. "There was a lot of positive energy. Ultimately they evaluated the arrangement here and felt they wanted to step away."
Under the contract with Covered 6, the company would have provided day and night security on the Promenade and surrounding streets, as well as in the public parking structures.
The added security was to include an armed supervisor and unarmed patrol officers in marked patrol vehicles and on foot equipped with body cameras.
"This private security initiative will enable us to address changing safety needs in a proactive and comprehensive manner," Thomas said at the time.
The program had been eagerly awaited by business owners and residents who have been calling for the City to crack down on rising crime and an entrenched homeless problem that is hurting business and making visitors feel unsafe.
Covered 6 -- which is known for its rigorous screening and training -- has provided security in Beverly Hills since the November 2020 general election, and has had four contract extensions.
Councilmember Phil Brock, a staunch supporter of the pilot program, said Covered 6 "felt they had tepid support from some parts of the Downtown community and from the Police Department.
"They really wanted to try a model where they would intercede" to prevent crime, Brock said. "Their hands were being tied. They were not getting the support they felt they needed.
"I felt they couldn't see a way they could succeed," he said. "This letter added to the fact they were coming to a place (where) they couldn't win."