An appropriately trained and equipped security officer can be an asset to an organisation

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Security Industry Authority (S.I.A)

The Security Industry Authority was set up by the UK government in 2001 as a way of licencing and setting up standards within the security industry which up until this point had been largely unregulated and allegations of criminal activity and thuggery within the industry were common place. Since its inception the reputation of the industry has improved but the industry needs to ensure this continues by endeavouring to improve training and the implementation of better equipment for the officers in their charge. 

An SIA licence allows the licence holder to legally practice within the industry, working without a valid SIA licence is a criminal offence, and under The Security Industry Act 2001 those working without a valid licence could be fined and even imprisoned. Licensing requirements currently do not extend to include in-house security such as those directly employed by the NHS.  My personal view on this is that all in house staff should still undertake SIA training offered by a SIA approved training provider. 

Within the UK Security Industry and the introduction of the SIA (2001), security officers are now trained to a minimal in industry standards. This is where the employer now needs to ensure this training is enhanced to reflect the environment that their security officer will be working within and that when these officers whilst they are on duty are equipped appropriately, dependent on the level of risk that they may face. Whatever the risk, it is not permissible or acceptable for a UK security officer to carry any form of equipment that would be considered as a weapon. Security literally means a state of well-being, freedom from harm, or freedom from danger. It is my opinion that any security officer who illegally arms themselves whatever their justification cannot be referred to as security. 

Isn’t Security a Dangerous job in the UK?

Yes, working as a security Officer in the UK can be dangerous, research carried out by the University of Portsmouth suggests that as many as 4 in 10 security officers suffer some form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), having been exposed to frequent episodes of verbal and physical abuse. 

https://www.port.ac.uk/news-events-and-blogs/news/security-guards-struggle-with-ptsd-and-lack-mental-health-support

In another report commissioned by The Security Industry Authority (SIA) research uncovered levels of violence against security staff that were described as “nothing short of a national scandal”.

https://www.sia.homeoffice.gov.uk/Documents/research/sia-violence-reduction-report.pdf

However it’s important to remember that security officers are not police officers, they are in fact civilians employed by organisations to protect their, people, property and assets. 

As an industry we would do well to remember that violence often begets violence and the more that we equip officers with what could be considered weaponry or offensive equipment, then we risk increasing the violence that is directed towards us. Another reason why security staff should not be in the possession of a weapon is down to what is known as the weapons effect. The weapons effect is a highly debated, controversial theory described in social psychology. It refers to the presumption that the mere presence of a weapon leads to a more aggressive behaviour in other humans.  

A poorly equipped and potentially illegally armed security officer could have a devastating effect on the reputation of any organisation and the security industry as a whole,  undoing years of work carried out by the the Security Industry Authority (SIA) as well as organisations  such as the Guild of Security Industry Professionals (GSIP), The National Association for Healthcare Security, The International Security Management Institute (ISMI) and the Security Institute in projecting a professional image for the industry.

When it comes to the potential risks that can impact a business, the risk of reputational damage caused due to violence perpetrated against their employees or even by their employees rank near the very top of the list.

If it so dangerous, Why is it that security officers are not armed?

Until this century, even traditional UK police officers with the exception of specialised armed response officers have themselves been limited in the equipment they are able to use and this has traditionally been a truncheon of some type and handcuffs. Changes to legislation have now allowed the UK police to carry CS spray and also Tasers to assist with their duties. The UK police force is highly regulated and officers have to undergo stringent training to qualify to become a police officer, the same cannot be said for most UK security officers. 

Other than the training issues the legal implications of security having any kind of weaponry are covered in the Firearms Act 1968, Section 5, which prohibits security officers from having or the use of CS gas, Tasers or firearms of any type. 

Legislation.gov.uk. 2020. Firearms Act 1968. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/27/section/5. [Accessed 25 September 2020].

The prevention of crime Act 1953 and Section 139 of the criminal justice act 1988 prohibits security officers from having or the use of a baton or truncheon of any type.

Legislation.gov.uk. 2020. Criminal Justice Act 1988. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/33/part/XI/crossheading/articles-with-blades-or-points-and-offensive-weapons. [Accessed 25 September 2020].

Apart from the legalities of arming security officers in the UK, the overriding reason the industry does not is that currently there is no justification or necessity. Whilst the amount of violence and aggression that the security industry faces as a whole is steadily increasing the legislative need is not sufficient enough to warrant the increased risk of arming security officers. It is therefore down to the employers within the UK security industry to ensure that stringent risk assessments are carried out and that all necessary safety equipment that is currently available to the industry is utilised to ensure the safety of their staff.

A thorough and detailed risk assessment is essential to ensure all factors are taken into account to determine the equipment that is necessary and essential for each individual security officer and their working environment.

So what equipment should a security officer have?

Uniform: There are many advantages of uniformed staff, especially uniformed security. Uniformed security officers act as a high visibility deterrent to adversary’s, their presence ensure your staff and visitors feel safe and secure and for security companies can promote brand awareness. Uniformed officers demonstrate a professional image and sense of authority, furthermore security officers are often the first person someone encounters when entering your organisation, so a smart uniformed officer offers a great first impression. 

Boots: As part of that uniform a security officer should be in the possession of suitable footwear, after all a security officer can be on their feet for many hours during their shift. Footwear needs to provide protection as well as comfort.

Pen and notebook: A pen and notebook is needed as a security officer may on occasions be required to take a statement to secure information provided by a witness ensuring an accurate record of events of a security incident. 

Torch (flashlight): The torch is perhaps the most important piece of equipment that any security officer should carry. Why? Well if you are assigned to patrol during the day, you should still carry a torch even though it may not seem necessary. There may be dark areas you need to patrol. If you work inside, you will need to use the torch in the event of a power cut. If you work nights then a torch is even more necessary, it will help you avoid hazards, help to detect intruders using the darkness to their advantage, and help act as a deterrent as it can be seen from great distance as you are patrolling. 

Communications device: Communication devices such as two way radio or mobile phones. Two-way radios or mobile phones can save the life of not only security personnel but also the lives of others by connecting them immediately to colleagues, controllers or first responders (Police, Fire, Ambulance) enabling them to co-ordinated a response to any incident.

Body-Worn Cameras 

BWC offer a deterrent factor, the mere presence of a body-worn camera can change the behaviour of an attacker in verbal or physical conflicts. Altercations with security personnel are greatly reduced when an adversary knows their actions are being recorded. It also reduces false accusations whilst gathering vital footage usually of evidential standard.

A thorough and detailed risk assessment may reveal the need for stab or ballistic proof vests, slash resistant clothing such as gloves or the need for handcuffs. 

*Important note: While handcuffs can be used by any civilian in the UK, including security officers, security personnel should be appropriately trained in how to apply the handcuffs correctly in order to reduce the risk of  injury and litigation to as low as reasonably possible (ALARP).    

Further equipment may also be dictated by an officers  current assignment, for example if employed and situated on a construction site then security officers should also be issued with a hard hats and protective boots in order to meet Health and Safety legislation, again this should be detected during a risk assessment.

https://www.hse.gov.uk/legislation/hswa.htm

In conclusion, when we talk about equipping our security officers to work within the industry, we are not just talking about the physical equipment that we can provide such as uniform, radio’s and body worn cameras but also the appropriate training to deal with the service needs they are there for, along with support for our security staff to ensure their continued mental wellbeing.  At the very least the following areas should be the essentials that we train our officer in to allow them to offer an effective and efficient level in their role.  Customer services, de-escalation training and where necessary intervention training could well be just as valuable to the service provider and their users as expensive equipment.  

Mark Lee. CSMP® M-ISMI® MInstLM

Proud Member of Guild of Security Industry Professionals (GSIP). Mark Is Currently employed as a Security professional working alongside the Security Management Team within the National Health Service (NHS) based at a large NHS Trust hospital spread across a number of locations with in Sandwell and West Birmingham.

He is a Certified Security Management Professional (DIP-CSMP®) and holds a number of qualifications in security and risk management. He describes himself as “far from academic, but lives to learn”.

Steven Hill
Steven is a Security Team Leader based within the National Health Service (NHS)

Steven’s experience in the security field extends across almost 3 decades.
He holds a number of qualifications in the security field. Steven is currently Seconded in the to the position of Local Security Advisor. Steven has played a pivotal role in implementation and
security design of the pending Midland Metropolitan University Hospital. Steven motto is “being professional doesn’t cost”