Rethinking the role of frontline security staff: an opportunity to present a new image?
Chair: Martin Gill
Charles “Chuck” Andrews – Founder of Friends of Chuck (US)
Chris Middleton Dip ML – Security Director at ABM UK
Dr Peter Stiernstedt, CPP, CISM – Lecturer in Criminology at University of West London (UK)
Chuck Andrews believes that Covid-19 and public protests in the US have highlighted the critical role played by the frontline private security operative. Their highly visible presence is key and when properly trained they become and can be seen to be a valuable resource. This includes to law enforcement and Chuck discusses an initiative in Texas where a partnership based on mutual understanding has been developed; it is a reference point for good practice, or will be. The key is that security staff have been accredited by law enforcement and at a time when the latter is facing funding cuts this is important. Chuck highlights the need for good work to be avertised, for reward and recognition to be highlighted, and for a formal campaign of education. Interestingly, he noted that he is not a fan of regulation.
Chris Middleton laments the time when security officers were blessed with public respect to a time when they are facing aggression on the frontline, including physical abuse. On top of this Covid-19 has forced clients to rethink priorities and where they place their funding and cleaning and security typically lose out; security officers are being asked to do cleaning now. These are the realities of frontline security; we must not get carried away that times are rosy. We need to regenerate links with the police, Project Griffin was very good for harnessing these and a joined-up approach, but it became old, it ticks along, but it lacks vigour and the accreditation scheme Police CPI operate is partial in coverage. There are further limits to security getting involved in policing, who will pay for the follow up work, appearing in court, answering appeals? Not clients. He calls on the industry to unite, to build on the pockets of good activity, there are examples of good practice in relations with the police, and these need to be publicised.
Peter Stiernstedt, reflecting on his own research, highlights the progress that has been made in the role of the frontline officer. He calls for a change in the perception of what security officers do which has not by and large kept up with the improvements that have been made. You will hear him discuss the factors that will make security more acceptable to stakeholders and clients such as the police, and he places a major emphasis on the value of regulation. To be acceptable to the police security needs to develop credible certifications and this needs to be tied to credible regulation.
Chris Middleton discusses the ‘Protect Duty’ proposal, a law which will require owners and operators of public spaces and venues to put in place measures to keep the public safe from a terrorist attack (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-proposes-duty-to-protect-public-spaces-from-terror). As he says this could be a game changer in raising the profile and value of security. We will see. Surely, it will take something like this to make a real difference. Sure, regulation plays a part, training too, and accreditations, but unless we persuade clients to recognise the value of security things wont change and to do this they will need an incentive, or a stick, maybe this will be it.
3rd November 2020