On Tuesday, NASCO, the National Association of Security Companies, an organization of manned security officer service providers, held a breakfast and awards ceremony as a networking event and awards ceremony. Recognized were two individuals; one was a young man named Tim Foster from Pittsburgh who worked as a security officer for U.S. Steel and had to be the "first responder" to a serious employee accident that left a plant worker in a life-threatening health condition. nine stories up in the air. The other was none other than Guido "Rick" Massimei from U.S. Security Associates. Rick was honored with the Colonel Minot Dodson Award to recognize of long-time commitment and service to the private security industry.
While the over-themes for NASCO's breakfast are awards and a recognition of their involvement with ASIS International, the speaker -- Mechele Ray from the State of Nevada Private Investigations Licensing Board -- focused the members' attention on the issues of regulation, licensing and reciprocity that mark Nevada's own board.
Ray told of her groups investigators that are hard at work in cities like Las Vegas to uncover those unlicensed companies who may have come in for a single job on a temporary assignment. Ray's office, in focusing on upholding the state's standards, has to keep out-of-state groups from running rough-shod over their rules.
While such heavy state licensing is certainly a positive thing in terms of industry professionalism -- and indeed NASCO has lobbied for licensing and regulation in a goal to improve the overall stature of the industry -- there's a danger that if there are too many state-based rules, the industry become prohibitive for the small and even mid-sized companies.
As one New York-based security firm told me as we discussed this issue of regulation, "Nevada can be a real problem, as can other states if they don't offer reciprocity." The challenge for this particular man's security officer services and protection detail company is that client's don't know state boundaries, and while a client may focus 90 percent of your work in the state you are licensed, you might need to be in a non-reciprocal state in two weeks and not have the license to do it.
"If there's going to be more licensing and regulation for our industry," said the company owner, "then it really needs to come from the national level. I don't mind being regulated and having to meet national standards -- and I think it would be good for us to weed out the bad companies -- but at our size, we can't go from state to state to meet all the individual rules and licenses."
It's clear that a national standard could be good for insuring organizations like the Brownyard Group, one of the top underwriters to the private security industry. As one of their representatives told me, the challenge for them is that they have to weed out the non-professional companies that aren't an acceptable insurance risk, and they have to start from the street since there are no national standards. While that background and company evaluation work certainly can never go away from a company that takes on risk, their representative said that real standards in the industry would not only probably make their work easier, but it could also make more companies insurable --- and though he didn't say, we can only speculate that real standards might make insurance cheaper and available from more providers.