Chair: Martin Gill

Neill Catton – Managing Director at CIS Security (UK)
Sandi Davies – Executive Director at International Foundation for Protection Officers (USA)
Dr. Declan Garrett – Director of Security Institute Ireland (Ireland)
Dr. Glen Kitteringham – Security Consultant and Research Criminologist (Canada)

Key points from the webinar

A theme running through the webinars has been the different types and levels of engagement with security by different stakeholders; there have been enormous differences. That finding was echoed here. Glen Kitteringham noted that in the City of Calgary – and the State of Alberta generally – the private security sector has been an active partner. A key reason for this includes a recent history of successful engagement with emergency managers and state security personnel on floods; private security had shown how it added value and that has been key. You will hear him discuss his impressions of other areas where the rapport has been less good which is where you will find what Sandi Davies has to say striking.

She feels that different levels of governments have largely turned a blind eye towards private security, and there is little evidence that the pandemic has changed things. This is particularly the case with businesses who have been required to fend for themselves with little state help. She laments this, the numerical advantage of private security personnel over public provision and their omnipresence represents a missed opportunity.

Security is still being forgotten even in a crisis, and this is clearly the case as far as politicians are concerned. Perhaps they don’t have confidence in private security? Perhaps they are unaware how good security is? You will hear calls for more research on security officers’ roles in this crisis to highlight the art of what is possible. This is a theme that is picked up by Neill Catton, who foresees potential for security to be seen differently, including by Governments, because of changes brought about in the crisis. You will witness him discussing the role of security in supporting cordons, testing the health of visitors and workers to premises, assisting in ensuring personnel keep to social distancing requirements, and helping the police. As he says private security is at the forefront of the ultimate responsibility of governments and all employers, keeping people safe.

You will hear a discussion – led by Declan Garrett – about the need for security to raise its profile, by speaking about how good it is. Its role as a business enabler, a key strategic partner, learning from progress made in the cyber security world all feature as issues. He also raises the point that the potential of security is also dependent on governments setting a good example, it is not always the case they avoid the race to achieve the lowest price on outsourcing even when it undermines quality. This is important because when security staff are not paid well, they cannot be motivated, they lack a purpose, a meaning, reflected in the lack of a career*. There are then consequences for retaining the best people. It means that the very face of the industry is ill equipped to speak about how good it is. He advocates the need for champions to promote the role of security in key circles, and this sparked some interesting observations about the role of security managers.

*Note: See the upcoming webinar “Would you want a career in security now? What has COVID-19 been doing to the future talent pool?” on 21st May, based on the current SRI study on security careers

There is a discussion about the importance of standards, the value of training, a credible procurement process, and the potential of technology to raise the value of security to all stakeholders including governments. All that said, amongst the calls for more recognition, which are loud and persistent, witness an interesting observation from Neill Catton that security needs to be careful about what it wishes for, a higher profile is not an unqualified good he argues.

Post Covid-19 will be tricky. The ensuing economic hardship is likely to mean tough times for all outsourced services. Sandi Davies highlights that that will likely apply to the public sector too and raises the potential for private security to be used to provide help to state services in the problems it will face. There are always opportunities, but they need to be identified and then met effectively, and that is quite another challenge.

Written by Professor Martin Gill

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