Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Mario Doyle – President & Chief Operating Officer at Doyle Security Services
Kevin Palacios – Ecuador Security and IFPO Latin America
Yolanda Hamblen – ISS UK and IFPO UK & Ireland

Key points

Yolanda Hamblen notes that those operating on the frontline come with varying abilities and accepts that there is a need for more thinking about their competence. This is because security can only be as strong as its weakest individual and things going wrong can have serious consequences. An effective frontline is in part dependent on the effectiveness of the leadership present to mitigate risk. Quoting the much discussed reference of, ‘what happens if we train them and they leave? What happens if we don’t and they stay?’ Yolanda notes that competence has been improved and the key is to highlight good practices. Much good work is not recognised, in part because people work in isolated roles, and also because the industry has not spoken up sufficiently. Things are changing, social media is raising awareness of the brand (of security officers) albeit this is work in progress. You will see Yolanda discussing a range of improvements, via governments passing legislation and developing good practices (referencing the UK’s PROTECT strategy as an example); the regulators generating entry requirements to being a frontline worker; the private sector aligning itself with credible suppliers; and officers themselves promoting change.

Kevin Palacios quotes Chris Hertig who sees security officers as ‘the forgotten soldiers of an invisible Empire’. They play a dual role in offering protection against crime but also helping to prevent accidents and unethical behaviour, important roles which are not fully appreciated. He points to the high number of private security officers killed on duty, in part because of a lack of competence, and their development has not always progressed as well as some would hope. There is a skill to protecting, it is about skills, behaviours, mannerisms, attitudes, discipline, being proactive, communicating effectively, and working as part of a team. The dangers of not being trained and competent are more than the obvious ones, there is the added concern that it creates a risk because of the illusion of protection. The role needs to be understood, staff can be demotivated by inactivity. That is why training is important. It is true some want to minimise the development of skilled officers, they cost more, another issue that needs to be recognised.

Mario Doyle develops the theme of the under-recognition of officers, not least the role played in contributing to public safety and in protecting the national infrastructure. The route to professionalism is underway, in some seeing the role as a career rather than merely a job, and through the positive reaction to work undertaken during the pandemic. But there needs to be more investment to promote the role. In some ways the focus on technology – and the push by some to replace frontline workers with technologies – has disguised the very real role able frontline workers play in not just making technology work but in being the first and main response; there are many instances where you cannot replace the people. And they need to be competent. Of course, where frontline workers operate in a context and where clients see suppliers as a cost the performance will drop, only by being viewed as ‘mission critical partners’ can real value can be delivered. The barrier to progress is the lack of investment, low wages and poor training, and the route out is to tell the stories of those who have performed well. Mario advocates legislation for minimum standards.

Another engaging webinar. A recurring theme was the need to appreciate the outstanding performance of those on the frontline, to understand the distinct characteristics of their roles and functions; to highlight the value generated by effective officers working in contexts where their skills can flourish; placing importance on the role of managers who are best placed to instil enthusiasm and motivate, but that too is work in progress. And we need to speak more about all the good work that is done, but the security sector is notoriously bad at that.

Martin Gill
4th May 2021