Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Sandi Davies – Executive Director at International Foundation for Protection Officers (USA)
Joop Verdonk – Managing Director at European Security Academy (Netherlands)
David Ward – CEO at Ward Security (UK)
Joachim Ritter – Chairman at Interr (Switzerland)

Key points

David Ward makes the point that security officers are adaptable people, and given the right training and support are an invaluable resource. Your will hear him support a certified programme of training. While the security officer role is supplemented by technology, it will not, he argues, replace officers and points to the key benefits of having a physical presence, the positives of human interaction, and the essential role in being first responders. He is against diluting the security role with non security tasks since, he says, officers always have to be alert and ready, always. David paints a positive picture about the potential to collaborate with the police. You will hear him discuss the key and different insights security officers bring to interactions with the police, for example their knowledge of a building when it is the scene of an incident. His belief is that the good practices he has experienced are replicable, it takes commitment.

Joachim Ritter is another security entrepreneur, and as he says those who run companies bear responsibility for the lot of security officers. He makes the point that what are often seen as simple jobs, such as watching a door, are not simple at all, and in fact difficult when undertaken every day. If technology has dominated then it has not taken over and it has helped make the officers’ role more interesting. He too underlines the benefits of human interaction, and as he reminds us in drawing a parallel with the music scene; vinyl is coming back. You will hear him talk about: the role of security officers in managing risk; building relationships with clients and approaches to managing their demands and wishes for security; and how sometimes fewer but better officers can be preferable. As he reminds us in his closing remarks, security officers are the ‘stars of the show’, we must not forget that.

Joop Verdonk presents some of the benefits of progress made in the Netherlands which has set higher standards for the security sector in the ways it has developed licensing. He welcomes the way in which the sector has moved beyond reliance on former police and military personnel to develop an impressive body of security managers skilled in security as a distinct discipline and engaging frontline personnel. In outlining the benefits of technology he too underlines the importance of the humans interface.

You will witness Sandi Davies stressing the benefits of skilled security officers, which is much more than undertaking a variety of complex tasks, it is, she says, also about filling the ‘trust gap’. She stresses the need for good training, and recommends buyers conduct research to establish the credible suppliers. You will witness Sandi advocating the need for an international standard, a prerequisite for raising the status and professionalism of security officers worldwide, and you will also hear her lament the lack of meaningful research on which to base this. There is much to be optimistic about though including a wide range of people committed to a career in security and coming with an impressive array of acacdemic backgrounds, but they need to be harnessed and they need committed and engaged line managers, and that is another challenge.

Security officers provide frontline human interaction. Maximising their contribution is in part about clients being prepared to pay for a good service, but also about suppliers and organisations committing to supporting their work. Some do that well, some don’t though and that remains the Achilles Heel which Covid-19 has not taken away, and unless properly addressed, could yet service to undermine good practices if, as some feel is inevitable, economic hardship follows.