The Changing Role of Private Security

Hiring a force of protection officers isn't as easy as it has been in the past

In the ever-changing world of private security, protection officers' roles and responsibilities are quickly adapting to a heightened security environment. Protection officer suppliers are turning to advanced training – in everything from the latest high-tech CCTV system to anti-terrorism – in order for their officers to be ready for whatever corporate and government security assignments come their way.

Security Technology & Design magazine recently held a roundtable discussion on the issues facing private security, featuring Ronald R. Rabena, the MidSouth Atlantic Division president for AlliedBarton Security Services; Rick Shannon, senior managing director for uniformed protection at Vance, a Garda company; and Don Walker, chairman of Securitas Security Services USA Inc.

Here is what they had to say:

ST&D: How has the role of private security changed since September 11, 2001 in both the private and public sector?

Shannon : In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, many companies undertook risk analysis and vulnerability assessments and then updated their security plans in reaction to that event. Longer term, companies are being more vigilant about performing criminal screening and comprehensive background checks on prospective employees and more comprehensive screening of vendors and strategic business partners. They also recognize the value of highly trained security officers to protect access control points, employees and corporate assets. Corporate risk managers now have a better appreciation for the value that comprehensive security provides. In the public sector there is a realization that effective security requires a partnership between public and private security organizations to meet the challenges we now face.

Rabena: Many organizations are calling on the services of companies such as AlliedBarton to design and implement emergency preparedness plans. As an example, we are working with companies in the chemical and petrochemical industries to help ensure they are in compliance with pending new Federal security regulations.

Post 9/11, new federal regulations require that chemical and petrochemical industries take a critical look at the methodology in place to secure their facilities. Many companies are facing security regulations for the first time while others are already in compliance with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations developed in 2002. As the rulemaking process evolves, we are continuing to work with our clients to assist them in recognizing, understanding and addressing security requirements. We can assist them in developing security programs that will address existing and new government standards.

Walker : Additional training has been provided to include being alert to surveillance and possible terrorist activities. There is a greater use of technology and faster notification of suspicious activity. There has been an increase in reception/concierge coverage for commercial high-rise buildings and increased training and drills for emergency evacuation of commercial high-rise buildings.

ST&D: Training and pay are constant hot buttons in the industry. How do you address critics who say there is inconsistency in training and disparity in pay for officers in the field?

Walker : The critics are correct -- Securitas has been working with other firms in the industry to improve selection and training of security officers. We encourage states to increase professional standards that, in turn, should result in higher wages and more benefits. Securitas launched a “living wage” initiative in 2000 aimed at providing security officers with a level of pay that is above market wage data.

Shannon : Those critics are right. There are inconsistent industry standards for training of security personnel and performance of security services. It has been an unregulated industry despite 30 years of regulation efforts. In large part, the problem is one of market forces -- comprehensive security training and improved pay and benefits packages require investment. To remain competitive, many security services firms provide the bare minimum required.

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