Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Jason Brown – National Security Director at Thales and Chairman of the Board at Security Professionals Australasia
Chris Hertig – College Professor at York College of Pennsylvania (Ret.) (US)
Qaisar Gandapur – CEO at Ghouri Security Guards (Pvt) Limited (Pakistan)
Jody Reid – Security Manager at The BOW (Canada)

Key points

Jason Brown outlines the true role of the security officer in providing freedom and safety to people to enable them to get on with their lives, in short it is fundamental. Alas, the good work is only really recognised when there is a problem. Yet the work they do happens every hour of every day, and the duties undertaken during Covid are just examples of many where security officers help in a crisis and play a key role. There are problems though with the image. The sexual harassment of women in isolation from Covid by security officers in the UK is a case in point. Jason argues that this sort of issue has tended to generate publicity that has not been matched by coverage of all the good work that is done; such behaviour is unacceptable of course but is not a true representation of the industry as a whole and of how the vast majority behave on a daily basis. Some of the key issues discussed include the lack of training; the reality that often the security role is a minor part of daily duties; regulation is not policed effectively; and pay is often poor. He points to initiatives to promote security officers’ work. He blames those who employ security companies and feels they should be held to account.

Qaisar Gandapur notes that the security guarding sector is new and still evolving. In Pakistan the traditional approach was for people to employ locals from villages to protect them, over time this has been replaced by an evolving and burgeoning security sector. Guarding has become more dynamic and is no longer about guns at gates. The modern frontline security officer needs to multi-task, dealing with trespassers, checking entrants to buildings, conducting surveillance, the roles are wide and varied. Yet the need for personnel to undertake these tasks has not been matched by training. In Pakistan there is a preference to employ ex-service personnel who understand the discipline, can manage weapons and so on. Those without this may need a lot of training which is often difficult to provide for. Part of the problem is that the status of a security officer is below that of waiters and mail delivery staff and it takes juts one mistake to enhance the sceptics negative view of security. Regulation has a role if it is well constructed and fully implemented, and in Pakistan and eslewhere it is not.

Jody Reid also points to the youthfulness of the sector noting that it has developed fast and well evidenced by the emergence of regulatory regimes and the provision of training, but it still has a long way to go. Part of the problem is that it is difficult to identify a recognised career path and the industry has not been good at speaking up about its successes. He welcomes the notion of a ‘national security officer day’. There certainly needs to be a coordinated attempt to balance negative news with all that is good about the work of security officers. Jody notes that building up good news stories needs to be an ongoing commitment, not a single response when a crisis occurs, and that impetus is lacking at present. He highlights the need to engage the younger generation and to present them with a career path noting that his own son has expressed an interest in wanting to be a security manager, a good sign. There needs to be an emphasis on attracting more women.

Chris Hertig stresses the key role security officers on the frontline play in providing for public safety. There has been a focus on the industry talking to itself and it needs to be good at talking to others. He laments the fact that there is really not any concerted attempt to positively promote the sector and this is a major weakness. He calls on security associations to step up. Alongside this regulation is often weak and not fully enforced, and you will hear him talk about the importance of job titles. Specifically, he highlights the need to match expectations of a job to the tasks to be undertaken; again he laments that job task analysis is a rarity and it undermines performance.

In a discussion about the tendency to award contracts that undervalue security generally and result in low pay for frontline workers he lays the blame firmly at the feet of clients who request tender responses that are not fit for purpose. Regulation can potentially sort this, but there needs to be the political will to implement it. When asked about the important strategic approaches that needed to be adopted, Jason Brown refers to associations focussing and communicating more effectively alongside governments establishing standards to hold those who buy services to account. Qaisar Gandapur also calls upon governments to take a lead and for security to be presented as a career. Jody Reid invites every individual to make a contribution. While Chris Hertig underlines the importance of education and training. Follow these ideas meaningfully and we have a good route forward.

Martin Gill
22nd July, 2021