Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Dave Dodge – Enterprise Security Risk Management, Business Continuity and Resilience Specialist (South Africa)
Steven Gardner – Head of Security at OCS Group (UK)
Chris Phillips – Managing Director at IPPSO (UK)
Prof. Philip Stenning – Adjunct Professor at Griffith Criminology Institute Griffith University (Australia)

Key points

Dave Dodge set the context of crime and security in South Africa, and it is startling. Last year here were 58 murders per day and twice as many security officers were killed than police officers. Frontline security personnel are low paid and there are widespread reports of their links to crime. Meanwhile police professionalism is questioned. He notes that only 1 in 9 rapes are reported often because of specific concerns about trust in and with police. Moreover, they barely work constructively together. You will hear Dave discus the role of the private security sector as first responder (which they frequently are) but how they often fail to deliver what the public wants or expects. He calls for a holistic approach and much more emphasis on professionalism, for both parties.

Steven Gardner contrasts that by pointing to the many good signs he is seeing. With examples he highlights how a unified private security/police service approach has many benefits and notes that there have been enormous strides to better collaborative working in recent years. Interestingly he points to the communication outlets the police provide for private security as a widespread benefit the sector receives from the police. There are problems, data sharing is a case in point and the law, GDPR. It impedes progress not least because some parties are not signed up; some CCTV images are not shared for this reason. He addresses the criticism that private security is geared to profit and not accountable to the public good by noting that security companies have a moral duty to guide clients to better practices; that all his officers are accountable to him as the guardian of good practices within the company; and that in the commercial world security needs to be good to be sustained, clients can choose not to buy security and companies can choose not to take bad work.

Chris Phillips notes that police services across the world are in serious difficulties. Governments cannot control their populations, evidenced by public protesting even rebelling against their police services. The police are disadvantaged, they work in silos (geographically at least) but offenders working in the areas of organised crime, terrorism and the drug trade operate globally. He sees a positive role for private security but poor collaboration is in evidence. He points to the financial sector where private sector investigations are not pursued by the police as one example. Professionalism of private security is key he argues.

Philip Stenning has been researching policing for over 50 years and argues that his views have changed in the later part of that time. He criticises the model where the public police decide how much policing should be allowed to be undertaken by other parties like private security. He argues that the guardian of the public interest should be an independent authority starting with a policing policy lead by a Minister of Policing (with a policing budget) whose role should be to embrace the whole array of providers to determine which ones are best equipped to meet a defined public need (referencing the recommendations of 1999 Patten Inquiry in Northern Ireland). You will witness an interesting discussion on accountability where he argues that the mechanisms for holding the private sector to account are at least as strong as they are for the public police. As he says the police service has its faults; poor performance is not the exclusive preserve of the private sector.

This webinar reminds us of the enormous potential of the private sector, but more than that challenges many of the barriers (and assumptions about them) which undermine its broader acceptance. The fact of the matter is that the evidence is there to challenge many negatives of private security, it just has to learn to use it.