Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Baroness Ruth Henig – Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords and a member of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy (UK)
Professor Gloria Laycock – Professor of Crime Science at University College London (UK)
Dennis Shepp, CPP – Security Management Professional (Canada)

Key points

As Dennis Shepp notes, the context for the discussion is that 2020 has been a difficult year. He outlines what he sees as some of the key trends, not all of which received coverage and some are just emerging, including: increased terrorism, disinformation about Covid-19 (and expect more of that and offenders targeting vaccines), more shop theft as Americans need to feed themselves, more substance abuse and with that more violence. On the positive side he points to the extensive collaboration that has taken place, the increased focussed on learning particularly via zoom. There have been pockets of positive activity in police working with the private security sector, but still there is scepticism with fears from law enforcement that security officers are stealing their jobs and are unaccountable for their actions. He calls for the development of common goals as a means of strategically working to a more collaborative end.  Associations need to do more and the sector needs to share the success stories.

Gloria Laycock agrees that it was a bad year but that it could have been worse. Although security did well, most did not notice. One positive, not often highlighted, is that what Covid-19 has done is provide an opportunity for a rethink. The danger is we don’t take the chance to learn. Setting a context where no one was prepared, PPE not being in place being just one example, we are reminded that the virus could not be tackled using old ways of working, it required a rethink. There will be more pandemics and natural disasters so reflecting and learning is important. Referencing the late Sir Ken Robinson Gloria invites us to think about safety and wellbeing rather than security, the public and private sector collaborating effectively (and starting to trust each other), and sharing data constructively. It will require a massive shift in thinking if these are to be done well but it is long overdue. She laments the lack of a strategy to harness the links which is to the detriment of the public. Improvements can be guided by science and by research (It is worth looking at this series which Gloria has helped to put together: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/jill-dando-institute/research/covid-19-special-papers), but we are all going to have to listen more.

Ruth Henig notes that the biggest failure of the sector, was that private security officers were not defined as key workers at the outset of the pandemic. This was reversed and frontline workers have established themselves credibly which she heralds as a significant achievement. In a different way the sector has learnt to embrace technology, and Ruth gives particular credit to HR teams within security companies; they had to be resourceful and show flexibility.  She also highlights the positive role of women and you will hear her talk about the ways in which the pandemic has provided an opportunity for their contribution to be recognised. Ruth also thinks that relationships between the police and private security have improved, and are improving although there is still more to be done.

This is another fascinating webinar. It provides a good insight into some of the good and challenging aspects of private security in 2020 and as it heads to this phase called the ‘new normal’. Dennis is surely right to be positive and emphasises the need for us to promote success stories; Gloria to invite us to think differently and is in tune with much current thinking in security needing to rethink how it presents itself to the world; and Ruth to remind us that small steps (in being defined as key workers, in improving relationships with the police) can amount to big progress when they accumulate.

Finally, on behalf of my colleagues let me please send you all our very best wishes of the season. We wish you a prosperous, peaceful, healthy and happy 2021, and hope that you will join us again on January 19th for our next Thought Leadership broadcast.

Martin Gill
17th December 2020