Security Officers post Covid-19: An enhanced role or more of the same?
Chair: Martin Gill
Mike Bluestone, Director of Security Consulting, Corps Security (UK)
Cy Oatridge, CEO/President, Oatridge Security Group (US)
Garry Evanson, Head of Security and Emergency Planning, Westminster Abbey (UK)
Jon Sigurd Jacobsen, Owner of SOS Event Security Ltd (Norway)
Garry Evanson questions whether there has been a growing recognition of security officers during the crisis. Bringing the debate down to reality he argues that it is money, above anything else (but you will witness him placing an interesting emphasis on company culture), that determines the types of security an organisation gets. And contrary to those who have eulogised security technologies he posits that technology could be security officers’ enemy, as it is often purchased at the expense of people; they are often not sold as complementary. Noting post Covid-19 security could develop in different ways he warns to expect a dilution and a return to basics; there is a likelihood security will be on the back foot.
Cy Oatridge argues that post Covid-19 security needs to be more nimble, security officers in particular, there is a new role involved in assessing the individuals they are talking to for illness, it involves being more engaged with people. Security officers are being more involved in screening, it is a responsible role. Indeed, you will witness a discussion about the legal liabilities that could result from getting it wrong, Cy at least is placing his faith in his officers on the frontline. There is a discussion -and disagreement – about whether these extended responsibilities mark a dilution in the officers’ role. And hear Cy’s views on whether security has been acting on fear, impulsively, rather than on the basis of rational thought. As he argues, the crisis has put the spotlight on security, he is optimistic it will benefit from its moment.
Jon Sigurd Jacobsen points to a range of influences/ changes taking place including:
the altering threat environment; changing customer habits; the need for more and different education and skills; and a changing supply chain. For him the new normal will mean a requirement for reduced costs against a parallel development of more skilled officers, and he believes they will be adapting to this new normal with enthusiasm. He underlines the importance of supporting officers; they are in a tricky new situation, it is onerous and responsible. He warns against a negative media, and reminds us that financial directors influence what security we get.
Mike Bluestone expands thinking on what security officers have been doing in the crisis, highlighting that the range of responsibilities includes quasi policing roles and that it is not too dramatic and a reality that they have been involved in saving lives. He emphasises too that much of the work of security officers is focused on customer care, that enables and includes a broader range of duties than has been traditional and they are important. As you will witness not all agree. Moreover, they have been a constant presence. While the statutory requirements for training are basic, good providers he argues are doing more. There is a fascinating discussion about language, ‘officers’ or ‘guards’, Mike favours the former but it is contentious!
The panel don’t present a unanimous view. True, those on the front line are carrying out a broader range of diverse tasks, but it may be temporary. It is not automatically a good base to build. Especially not if a recession follows, or their work is replaced by technology, or they simply don’t do it well. The opportunity is there but the jury is out.