At the Frontline: 2011 ASIS President Ray O'Hara

Incoming president on how security has changed, how ASIS changes with the times

This month, ASIS International, the leading association of security managers, installed Ray O'Hara, CPP, as their 2011 president. O'Hara has an extensive background in law enforcement, corporate security and third-party security services. He currently serves as executive vice president for international services, consulting and investigations at Andrews International. Other stops in his career include the Los Angeles Police Department, GTE corporate security, Weyerhaeuser corporate security, Pinkerton, Securitas, and Vance. had a chance to speak with Mr. O'Hara for the following "At the Frontline" interview.

SIW: How long have you been an ASIS member?

O'Hara: Oh, that is too many years to remember. It has probably been 25 years.

SIW: Let's talk about your career path. I think a lot of aspiring security managers want to know how to go from private security or law enforcement into the ranks of corporate security and then into investigations and consulting.

O'Hara: I spent 10 years in law enforcement in Los Angeles at the LAPD, then I entered corporate security at [telecom manufacturing company] GTE for a couple years. I also served as corporate security manager for Weyerhaeuser in Seattle.

I did pretty well in the 10 years I was at the Los Angeles Police Department. I received some promotions and had to ask myself what I wanted to do. I had worked closely with some corporate security people working with businesses in Santa Monica. At that time in law enforcement, you either stayed for a lifetime, or you left after about 10 years.

SIW: Do you miss the brotherhood that comes with law enforcement work?

O'Hara: Actually, no, because ASIS has replaced the brotherhood that law enforcement provides, and many of the people that I'm connected with are former law enforcement.

SIW: ASIS is known for its education programs, and you hold the CPP designation. When did you earn your CPP?

O'Hara: It was when I went to work at Weyerhaeuser. My boss in those days reminded me that I had until the end of the year to pass the CPP exam. I did it and haven't looked back at all. That all started in July 1984. I passed the CPP exam on the first try. What it helped me with was to learn some areas of the industry that I didn't know. Studying for the exam is going to make you a better person, and not just because of the knowledge base. You have to be able to work your way through the exam.

SIW: Your career path seems to follow a fairly traditional security path: law enforcement into corporate security. But is that changing as corporate security becomes more and more electronics- and computer-based?

O'Hara: Traditionally, the ASIS member has been a "second career" member who has come out of another sector of the government or private security. Our sense at ASIS is that there is a chance for first-career professionals -- people coming out of college and wanting to go directly into security. We see more and more of those, and we're targeting those people.

I think these are transition years for this organization as we go from that second-career model to the first-career person. The skill sets are very different; the first-career person is much more in tune with and comfortable with the Internet, computer security and technology. The second-career person probably is more in tune with law enforcement. Our job as an association is to address both needs.

SIW: What is something that you see in the second-career members that the first-career security professionals often don't have?

O'Hara: Traditional investigative skills come more easily to your second-career professionals. That is more of a [training] need to the first-career member.

SIW: With 25 years of experience as an ASIS member behind you, what have you seen change in corporate security? Or has anything really changed?

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