[Editor's note: Keith Lavery is the security strategies contributor for Officer.com (a sister site to SecurityInfoWatch.com), and his columns also appear on SIW. His perspective links law enforcement and corporate security practices and needs.]
What is it about cops and acronyms? Expressions of foul language denoted as SNAFU, FUBAR, and HUA. Tasks or events described as INFOSEC, PHYSEC, or SITREP. Then we have the "alphabet soup" of law enforcement agencies at the federal level of government. Some are well-known, such as the FBI, DEA, and USMS, and others not so well known such as OSI, DSS and so on. The point is that these abbreviations, although they represent important facets of law enforcement, never helped me in my policing career, except for one: ASIS.
If you have been a cop for any significant amount of time you have learned that networking is the absolute key to being successful. The old adage is true: "It is not important to always know the right answer, but to know where to find it". That is what ASIS does for a cop. It puts the police--at least once a month, "shoulder to shoulder" at meetings, and in contact with their private security counterparts.
ASIS, founded in 1955, originally stood for the "American Society for Industrial Security" and has been changed to "ASIS International," (for good reason: there are over 33,000 members worldwide), but within in the industry it is known as just ASIS, pronounced "as-is". I have found that the local chapter membership contains the "Who's Who" of not only security, but those cops seeking to be informed law enforcement as well. Let's face it, if an active shooter steps into your local shopping mall with deadly intentions, then the first responder is, guess who? Not you. It will be mall security. Therefore, as a tactically oriented and forward thinking cop, I would want to obtain whatever floor plan (at a minimum) of the mall that I could before the potential catastrophe. I may, even as a patrol supervisor or SWAT commander, want to rehearse a full-blown deployment or at least a table-top exercise involving those who perform physical security at the site in question.
Whether training for the eventuality or actually responding to the real thing, it pays to know who the security manager is at the mall, or anywhere for that matter, before the first shots are fired. To be effective, you have to network.
A critical part of networking is meeting the right people at the right time when they are willing to speak with you, and I have found that this most often occurs at our local chapter meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. The meetings are informative, and whenever I have attended the speaker is always a subject matter expert who offers tremendous insight that I have been able to use as a police officer, either that day or shortly thereafter (sorry, but how many of us can say the same for police seminars we have been to?). Topics range from Counter-Terrorism, HAZMAT, Intelligence gathering. and other current hot topics. Being a member of your local chapter, and the international organization too, provides additional benefits beyond the professional interaction. For example, there are certification programs such as "Certified Protection Professional," which is a security administrator designation required for many security supervisory roles, both for public and private entities. Detectives interested in pursuing private investigations, or better their current snooping skills, can earn the board certified "Professional Certified Investigator," or those who are "bit and byte" oriented can seek to obtain the "Physical Security Specialist" credentials.
Personally, what I have found to be the greatest reward of membership is the organization's collective knowledge, which is freely available to its members. It is rare to have so many experts confined to such as small space, such as what you find at the local meeting. I find it stimulating to interact with professionals who have a common interest, but whose particular security focus is so diverse. For instance, it is common at our meetings for me to be seated at a table listening to a speaker and sitting on my left is the corporate security manager responsible for the safeguarding of a financial institution with over 3,000 different locations around the country. On my right is a supervisory agent for a national railway policing agency, and others at the table include a Secret Service agent, hospital security director and a security manager for a large chemical company, in addition to police chiefs from local agencies.
For businesses, time is money, and for everyone else, time is limited. Time spent with ASIS is time well spent.
Keith R. Lavery, M.A., is a full-time criminal justice educator teaching secondary education and having taught law enforcement, criminal justice and security courses at the post-secondary level. Keith had a very diverse police career for over 17 years, working in urban and rural law enforcement settings with assignments ranging from patrol to specialized functions, and to stay current in the field, works part-time as a patrol officer in Northeastern Ohio. Keith is currently the Law Enforcement Liaison for the Cleveland, Ohio, Chapter of ASIS International.