Waldorf firm successful in security, investigation
Blackout Security has grown to 90 employees in its 11 years
Guy Black has gathered at least two cherished memories during the 11 years he’s been in business with his Blackout Investigations and Security Services: protecting Playboy bunnies at a dance club in the District and standing next to rapper P. Diddy, aka Puff Daddy, or now Diddy, for four hours while he signed autographs at a Prince George’s County music shop.
“It gives you a different insight into these celebrities because you’re standing there listening to them, watching them. … P. Diddy is just like he shows himself on television: He’s kind of tough. He’s demanding,” the retired Maryland state trooper and La Plata resident said.
Black started the Waldorf-based Blackout two months after retiring as an assistant commander in 2006. A second knee surgery — a third came later, putting him on artificial knees — led to an offer of a medical retirement.
“I retired in July of ’06, and I sat home for two months,” the former Marine said. “I realized I was way too young to sit home: ‘This can’t be what I always dreamed of.’” He was 50 at the time.
“Two months of fixing everything I could fix, planting everything I could plant, I realized I had to find something else to do,” he said.
Back in 2000, Black was in charge of the Maryland State Police’s division that handles licensing for security guard and private investigation agencies, special police, railroad police, K-9 services and security systems installations. That experience led him to start Blackout.
Today, he has around 90 employees, 40 of whom are full time and the other 50 or so are what he calls “part time, anytime.” They come from all walks of life but, not surprisingly, many have some background in police and security work.
Tonya Ridgeway of Waldorf is one of Blackout’s lead super visors that works with clients on security plans and does spot checks to make sure guards stay on their toes and are doing the work required.
Ridgeway spent six years as a police officer in Richmond, Va., and another six as a deputy sheriff in Virginia before signing on with Blackout three years ago, starting out doing guard work.
“Things are a little different here. It was a period of adjustment from the way the commonwealth handles things,” Ridgeway said. “We have sites not only in Maryland but also in D.C., so the laws are different.
“Every day is a new experience — no day is the same.”
On that theme, Black recalled a stakeout he once did for a divorce investigation. A woman was believed to be having an extramarital affair, and Black needed to get solid evidence of that for his client, her husband.
“I followed her to this guy’s apartment complex. She went in about 8:30 that night. At that point, I’m in the parking lot with my video camera in my truck and I’m having to sit there and wait,” Black said. “She didn’t come out for about 10 hours. So, 10 hours I spent in a car.”
He said he had to keep a log and take a picture periodically to document how long he’d been there and show that her car was still there.
“If I’m putting together a case for the client, I have to be able to verify that he or she went in the building at 8:05,” he said. “At 9:05, she was still inside — I normally take a picture of the car in the same position — 10:05, 11:05, same thing, documenting and taking a picture so the client will have all that information. At 5:30, 6 o’clock she finally walks out. By this time, I’m worn out.”
All the while, he had to keep from looking suspicious to others and drawing attention from police officers patrolling the area.
“You have to have dark window tint because people can pull up and see you sitting in a car,” he said. “You hope it’s not cold so you’re not having to run the car all night because people will wonder why that car is out there running. I’ve been pulled up on by the police because I was sitting in a community with the lights off and the car running.”
Other investigative work includes workmen’s compensation fraud and employee theft cases.
“With workmen’s comp fraud, an individual has claimed an injury on the job and he’s refusing to come back to work. He shows up at his doctor’s visits with his neck brace on, and he walks out the door and pops it off and throws it in the back seat,” Black said. “We do that kind of work, also. Those are the good ones. Or you get an individual who’s suing someone — he’s claiming he can barely stand up. There we are behind him, or sitting in the bushes somewhere, filming [him] at a golf course swinging a golf club. That part of it’s rewarding, because you’re saving a company a lot of money.
“None of these things happen on a regular basis,” he said, “The majority of our work is guard service.”
Black said he has contracts for security work in Charles, St. Mary’s and Prince George’s counties, but most work is in D.C. He got his license to operate in Virginia about a year ago but hasn’t landed any regular contracts there yet.
“One thing about these contracts, once you acquire them you have to have people to go out and supervise them,” he said. “I couldn’t take a contract in Richmond, because I’d have to send someone down there on a daily basis to check these people. We’ve been looking at Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria — close by.”
Patrick Waring of Waldorf, who maintains a fulltime job in an unrelated field, started as a security guard six years ago but quickly moved into a supervisory position the following year.
“I wanted something to do as a part-time job,” Waring said. “There was a lot of flexibility with the hours. I kind of like always working.”
Waring has been around long enough to see the company grow, and has gotten to know Black well. He met him at a health club before signing on for guard work.
“To me, it’s an honor to work for Mr. Black,” Waring said. “I knew him before, but I’ve really gotten to know him on the job. He’s a hard worker, but he cares about his employees.”
The Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs agrees: It recently presented Guy Black with a Governor’s Citation recognizing his contributions to the Southern Maryland business community.
Black’s community involvement includes serving as a Charles County Liquor Board commissioner and serving on the boards of the Southern Maryland Minority Chamber of Commerce, South County (Prince George’s) Economic Development Association and the Derek Whittenburg Foundation in Raleigh, N.C., which helps students financially to finish their education.
Black was also a competitive weightlifter and started the Maryland State Police’s weightlifting team, which won titles at competitions around the world.
“My pastime is still weightlifting,” he said. “The [Maryland Independent] did a couple of articles on us when I was part of the state police weightlifting team. I don’t compete anymore. I haven’t competed since my last knee surgery back in ’09. But I still train because you never know when you have to be in good shape.”
Guy Black started Blackout Investigations and Security Services after a career with the Maryland State Police.