HOLLYWOOD, Fla. May 6 2017 - They wear uniforms and direct traffic. They even have wailing sirens and flashing lights, but some escorts directing traffic at funeral processions are not police officers.
They're security guards who work for private firms.
"The difference between the two is because the police officers are the law, and the private firms must abide by the law," Wright & Young Funeral Home owner Terry Wright said.
Wright said he has used private companies, but after several accidents, he now prefers to hire sworn officers as police are required to take hours of training just to be motormen and even more to be escort-certified for events such as funeral processions.
"You're looking at a difference between a company that hires maybe a security or some are not even security guards, versus a policeman that's trained to deal with traffic and enter those intersections safely," Miami police Lt. John Carpenter said.
Carpenter said training is key to keeping everyone on the road safe.
In most cases, funeral processions have the right of way, but only police have the authority to direct them through a red light.
He said only police can bring a procession through a red light. Private escorts don't have that right.
Florida law states that security officers are only authorized to use amber or purple lights on their vehicles.
The Department of Consumer Affairs said anyone can file a complaint regarding a security company online through its website.
Local 10 News found escorts using sirens and lights to force a procession through red lights, a practice that stopped and confused some oncoming drivers.
Nicolas Ayala works at the corner of Opa-Locka Boulevard and Northwest 7th Avenue and said he sees it all the time.
"It's a little bit confusing because they stop, basically, all the traffic, so people actually don't know what to do, whether to stop, pull forward," he said.
There's no way to know how many accidents happen in South Florida during funeral processions because police said they don't have any way to track them, but police sources told Local 10 News that accidents do happen.
A crash report from Fort Lauderdale in January showed that one motorcycle escort had to go to the hospital after a driver cut him off during a funeral procession.
State guidelines for security companies also prohibit the use of symbols or uniforms that make them look like law enforcement.
An example is the use of five-point star badges, which are reserved for sheriff's offices.
As for those red lights and sirens, they're not supposed to be using those, either.
"When you start using sirens and horns, it becomes an issue of whether you're impersonating a police officer," Carpenter said.
Wright said he believes the safest thing is for everyone to follow the rules.
"People are in a hurry here to get where they're going," he said. "So they don't respect services. They don't respect anything."