Profiling in the Retail Arena

How profiling at retail locations is changing with the times

Profile of a Security Manager

Many of the race-related problems that occur in this country exist because of a lack of understanding of minorities on the part of those in authority. Many times, that lack of understanding exists because the security director is not a minority. The profile of a typical security manager is an older white male, often a retired police officer.

This older white man has probably spent a career in law enforcement arresting members of minority groups for various crimes. (The issue of why minorities are overrepresented in the criminal population is a separate discussion, but one look into any prison or jail tells the story.) So the security manager already has a mindset that minorities must be given a hard look when they enter the store, as they're likely to be involved in criminal activities.

This profile is changing, however. Little by little, ethnic minorities and females are attaining supervisory and executive positions in the security field.

Diversity in Security

"Diversity" is another word that is often discussed positively in the daylight hours but sneered at when the lights go down. Many managers, particularly in the security field, secretly think that "diversity" means hiring unqualified minorities so that the company can meet an unwritten quota. Shame on any company that will hire a minority without the proper qualifications simply because of that person's ethnic background. That kind of hiring practice is not beneficial to anyone. The company gets the short end of the stick because it has failed to hire someone who is qualified to do the job, and the employee is put in a position where he or she is bound to fail because of a lack of qualifications to perform the job properly.

But shame, too, on a company that overlooks minority candidates because of negative preconceived notions about the minority group to which they belong.

Profiling job candidates as a whole, rather than as individuals, is as costly to a business as profiling all members of an ethnic group as shoplifters, or as failing to pay attention to established profiles of criminals.

Profiling in itself is not a bad thing. It's how the information is used that counts.

About the Author: Liz Martinez is a security expert and the author of The Retail Manager's Guide to Crime and Loss Prevention: Protecting Your Business from Theft, Fraud and Violence (2004, Looseleaf Law Publications). She has a B.A. in criminal justice from John Jay College, is a member of ASIS International, and is an instructor at Interboro Institute in New York City, a two-year college that offers a Security Management degree program. Ms. Martinez can be reached through her Web site at