Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Rollo Davies – Managing Editor at TPSO magazine (UK)
Maj. Mandeep Garewal – Managing Director at Force Tech Security India Pvt Ltd (India)
Charles Oloo – Managing Director of Burton Consortium limited (Kenya)
Mike Reddington – Chief Executive Officer at British Security Industry Association (BSIA) (UK)

Key points

Rollo Davies notes that in the security sector there is some negative baggage to overcome. He points to a UK poll of the public, published on 19-10-20 that confirms the view that the public view security officers in largely unambitious terms; akin to the status accorded to traffic wardens. He notes that many in the role are not committed to it and the media disproportionately portrays security officers as tired, lazy and not too bright. Yet, he sees change in the air. Pointing to a UK security sector initiative committed to changing perceptions of security he is positive about a move to see the frontline role in more professional terms. He floats the idea of using the terms ‘security operative’ or ‘protection officer’ which he feels, alongside improving regulation, will help increase professionalisation. With that he argues will come better rewards for those who in security are most in the public eye.  

Maj. Mandeep Garewal is keen to drive commonality across the world. He notes that the words ‘guard’ and ‘officer’ are often used interchangeably but they should not be. Noting that India has the most security guards in the world he argues the case for the differences: in objectives; nomenclature; experience; responsibilities and qualifications. Expectations have grown and the word guard he no longer sees as fitting. Governments need to change their approach; regulators need to engage; there needs to be more recognition.

Mike Reddington highlights that the security world is now more diverse and inclusive and the word guard he argues is ‘archaic’ with negative connotations and is a poor reflection of the services and skills of modern security officers. This is important, because any route to developing and expanding the availability of frontline officers to help in more demanding roles depends in part on a greater appreciation of their skills sets and capabilities. He promotes the case for a universal language and the industry committing to promoting the positive aspects of the work it collectively undertakes.

Charles Oloo looks at the terminology in terms of an evolution from watchman, to guard to security officer. As he says, names are important, they define you. The challenges the industry confront are considerable, high level criminals and clients demanding more. In Kenya the regulator has argued the word ‘guard’ should not be used, and this is a step in the right direction. He calls on associations to unite to promote the case of the more highly skilled officers; via associations to gain a place at the high table; commit Governments to setting examples in the ways it approaches private security; to develop the training curriculum of security officers; and make all this a global initiative.

This engaging webinar highlights the significance of the importance of a name. The words ‘security officer’ can’t be universal as they are not permitted in some countries where they cause confusion, that perhaps intensifies the need to identify alternatives. But once that is done, no small feat, the process of getting engagement is a major challenge. Names matter, but they are one step, and an important one, in generating for the private security sector the enhanced reputation that will reflect its true value but also enable it to better protect people, organisations, communities and countries.

Martin Gill
20th October 2020