Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Andrew Kelly – Senior Security Manager: Global Operations at Coca Cola
Lizette Lancaster – Project Manager: Crime and Justice Information and Analysis Hub at Institute for Security Studies
Leonie Mangold – Vice Chairman of ESDA, Special Project Sales Consultant at Powelltronics
Jean-Pierre (JP) Smith – Councillor, City of Cape Town

Key points

Andrew Kelly sets a context for the critical state of the security sector and notes that it has historically failed to deliver. Individuals who work in security are all too often perceived as uneducated and the entry levels are renowned for having a low bar, very low.  Certainly, the security industry has not achieved its potential for growth. Perceived improvements have under-delivered; it has remained reactive rather than proactive; and mentoring to encourage the best and the disadvantaged to engage and progress has not taken place. The high unemployment rate has meant manpower providers have a ready supply of cheap labour and so can offer to commit people to solve problems, it has become a ‘numbers game’.  You will see and hear Andrew discuss the relationship of providers to the corporate world and one can be left in little doubt that there is a need for a greater commitment to professionalism.

Lizette Lancaster sets a context in South Africa of a dramatic increases in violence and crime, and although there is scepticism about the ability of the private security sector to respond effectively this is also true of the police. Clearly the losers are the public. Lizette invites consideration of what should happen now, for example in the various ways the private sector can help in assisting the police, and discusses dealing with civil unrest. The fact that the police are struggling because of Covid-19 means they are being pulled away from important tasks such as crime prevention; understanding how best to maximise this relationship is key. She is concerned about knee jerk reactions to the crisis and in this context questions the evidence base for measures which are being heralded as effective, biometrics and body cameras are just two examples. She also raises the important issue of the mental health of frontline workers which appears to have received little attention. There is some optimism about the potential to think differently going forward, convergence is discussed in this context.

Leonie Mangold places a heavy emphasis on at least two key factors. First, compliance as a driving force for change; standards and quality matter and they need to be promoted. Second, education, and this includes raising awareness about pricing and quality as well as the benefits of the range of well thought innovative solutions available. The disjuncture between providers and clients needs to be addressed. It needs the two to work closely together; suppliers need to understand clients’ needs, there is no shortcut. The future of security may be in better hands for at least two reasons. First, young people are emerging with new ideas and with a greater commitment to diversity. Second, technologies are good, traditional products are being adapted to cope with the demands of a post Covid-19 world, and she warns about getting rid of them too quickly. She notes that technologies that have been tried and tested over many years are being disregarded too soon; there are real dangers and costs attached to knee jerk reactions.

Jeann-Pierre Smith notes that some state/public money is spent on private security although some feel it should be focussed on state services since private security only supports those who pay for it.  Part of the problem he notes, and this is true of South Africa as it is elsewhere, there has never been any serious attempt to co-ordinate public and private security for the public benefit, and some parties look askance at collaborations. There are partnerships of course, but these have never been fully developed. At least part of the problem is the clumsy procurement process that governs process which coupled with the security sector not setting or following sufficient standards on a consistent basis undermine good security, he laments ‘Cavalier attitudes’.

Around the world the issues facing the security sector differ markedly. South Africa is characterised by extremes in terms of security expertise: from the highly skilled to those who operate under the radar of regulation, some using technology very effectively and some not at all. The poor state and reputation of private security is its nemesis although the panel offer a range of routes to progress to a state where it can fulfil its undoubted potential. The gaze though never turns far away from the state being a better co-ordinator, buyers buying better, and the sector taking responsibility for bringing about a real increase in standards.

This webinar marks the launch of the inaugural South African OSPAs. You can find out more about this initiative by visiting https://za.theospas.com/

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