What Can Be Done To Improve The Professional Security Officer Of The Future? By Paul Barnard

My policing background stretches back over the last few decades, so I bring to the security sector a vast range of experience from the operational side and I understand what is needed to professionalise people on the frontline.

I had many challenges in policing, but one radio message from July 2005 still remains with me; “Guv, I think you’d better get down here, I have a guy here with me who said he just felt an explosion underground”

Everything stopped and I thought of all the things it could be, hoping it was not as it seemed. But in this instance, it was the very worse-case tragic terrorist attack.

I understand how first responders react at such news and that’s where my frontline experience helps. I know confidence, even for security guards, is provided by being given good information and intelligence, detailed briefings, excellent training and testing what you do, so it becomes natural – but when the real test arrives, we all react differently, but still these key elements make a difference.

So, what more can be done to improve the professional security officer?

Well even before 7/7, Security guards across the country had received training in Project Griffin- a superb counter terrorism initiative which has since grown into Action Counters Terrorism, with an online portal to enable the product to reach the masses.

Indeed, security is something we all want, some we don’t see and some we do. We demand it for our homes, cars, our technology, when we go out and for our family. But some of that security doesn’t require people, that’s true.

Did you know, security in some new builds across the globe is technology driven with robot security guards and integrated solutions?

However, terrorism arguably, still poses the biggest threat and risk to life. The UK is at a Severe Threat Level from International Terrorism, which means an attack is highly likely.

And then there are those who are not terrorists, but still want to disrupt everyday business, the insider, the protestors or criminals.

As frontline security officers, you may or may not have the technology to hand to help you, but there are in my opinion three things that will make you the best you can be, doing the job you do in trying to deter and disrupt the above activity;

Information, Intelligence and briefings

Professional training that is relevant, modern and accredited

Testing, exercising and communications

Intelligence and information should not be confused – they are different. In basic terms information is something you may readily know about an event or a protest for instance, whereas intelligence, will be about something specific which is not readily known, but will need to be corroborated if possible.

So, if there is a protest happening, where you are the security on duty, the minimum you should have is a briefing from your supervisor/manager detailing what is happening and what your role is and is not. Not only is this good practice, it’s essential so you are as best informed as you can be.

Intelligence may suggest or demonstrate that something during this protest may happen, which is out of the ordinary. Now, the police for a number of reasons may not share this with the private sector, but if it is shared, there may need to be a different briefing and you may be asked to respond differently as a security detail.

The challenge the authorities have, is passing on enough information for such briefings to security officers about terrorism, without disclosing how it came about. It’s a difficult balancing act, but one I know senior police Chiefs are determined to get right.

There is a lot of good work going on across the country to achieve these solutions, for instance with a number of security companies agreeing, we can help shift the debate to maximise how frontline security can be improved.

On the ground, like many others, I argue that security does not stop at the front door of a building. Effective patrolling around it provides you with more information and get to know your neighbours, because they will also look after you.

As far as training is concerned, there are significant areas for improvement. You may be aware that the Security Industry Authority (SIA) is undertaking a review of the licensing process and content over the next couple of years. For a number of people this is very welcome and timely. I know one idea is to make sure all personal training is capable of being “passported” so it’s transferable.

We live in a very different world from 16 years ago, with the pace of change, new technology and new physical and online threats to society. Then there is the deterioration in police numbers, meaning that inevitably the security industry has stepped into the public space, to ‘police’ events, open public spaces and crowded places.

I see stories every day about the bravery of security officers up and down the country, including the assaults they face. I admire what you do and how you have stepped up. Some may say assaults, “…are a mark of our time”, but that does not make them acceptable.

So, if that’s the case what training has been provided to make you more professional and capable, but moreover how do we know it’s made a difference?

In all aspects of security staff training, including Counter Terrorism, there is a growing body of calls for security staff to receive professionally accredited and re-accredited training, capable of being linked to a unique identity for each person, so its transported wherever you work in the security sector and is capable of being seen by employers.

And yes absolutely, what you are paid should be linked to the quality of what you can deliver, so I’d expect eventually pay rates to rise.

In an ideal world you will have the right information, intelligence, briefings and training – but so what? How effective is that if its note tested and exercised? Well simply it’s not.

So finally, I will discuss testing and exercising. This should be part of the every day rhythm. Whether, its testing CCTV operators, exercising dynamic lockdown of a building or rehearsing a first aid or an assault scenario – its all good practice and essential. Of course, it’s difficult but it’s not impossible.

Likewise, there are over 2,000 security companies out there, with over 800 members of the Approved Contractor Scheme. I’m sure many of you will recognise, especially in larger towns and cities, that buildings and public spaces can have many different security companies, in one area. But in times of emergency, do we all act as one, or differently?

The short answer, is no not always and often for good reasons, because all buildings are different. But by testing and exercising together and sharing best practice, surely that makes good commercial sense and to improve the safety of security officers and the public/businesses they protect? In my view it’s a must.

I wonder if further legislation could help better protect the public by extending the Civil Contingencies Act, which places responsibilities and expectations on certain public bodies to deal with major incidents and civil emergencies, to include the private sector, so we are all truly working together and make testing and exercising security procedures a MUST?

Paul Barnard MSt (Cantab), MSyI.

Paul Barnard

After a long and distinguished career in UK Policing, retiring as a Detective Chief Superintendentwith the City of London Police, Paul is currently Director of Security and Risk Mitigation withWard Security. With a proven track record in Counter Terrorism & Risk Mitigationhe has also recently accepted a Directorship with The Security Institute, and is responsible for their important new Youth Engagement initiative – “Next Generation in Security.”