Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What Is the "Security Industry?"

There is no common public perception as to what “security” really is. And that’s because the industry is so large and diversified. When the term “law enforcement” is used, there is little doubt as to its meaning: it refers to public agencies that uphold the law. Pretty simple and straightforward. The more informed understand that there are differences in jurisdiction (local vs. county vs. state vs. federal, etc.) and in general function (ordinary policing vs. investigations vs. transportation enforcement vs. protective services, etc.). But when the ordinary citizen hears “law enforcement,” he or she pretty much knows exactly what is meant.

On the other hand, there really is no simple definition of the security industry (other than “providing protective services,” which is so all-encompassing as to be nebulous and non-helpful). Here is just a partial list of the “security industry:” proprietary security departments; contract security services; private investigations; guard and patrol services; armored courier services; alarm and equipment installers; security consultants; private information/intelligence services; auditors; risk management services; contingency planning services; business continuity services; special event specialists; bodyguards/personal protection specialists; etc.

And each of these categories has its subcategories: some proprietary security departments provide overnight guard patrol, some provide full security and law enforcement-like services; some contract security companies provide services to a variety of industries, some specialize in one; some alarm and equipment companies provide home burglar alarms, some provide integrated security systems that are literally global in scope; etc.

So when the term “security” is heard, should the ordinary citizen think of the night watchman-slash-boiler operator, or the corporate security executive who is responsible for $500 billion worth of company assets, or the bodyguard protecting Britney from a stalker, or… what should the ordinary citizen think of?

Coupled with the vast diversity of services encompassed by the “security industry,” there are other issues of disparity that make it difficult for the ordinary citizen to understand what we do and who we are:

· There is a Police Officer on duty at the publicly-owned hospital, while there is just a “security guard” on duty at the private hospital across the street – and both are performing the same basic job function.

· Public law enforcement agencies, because they are public, are subject to public scrutiny, in everything from their budgets to their activities. Private security operations, because they work for private enterprises, are subject to virtually no public scrutiny (until something newsworthy – usually meaning “bad” – occurs).

· The high-speed police pursuit of a speeding motorist makes the nightly news because the media camp out on the Police Department’s doorstep. The 2-year investigation by the team of corporate investigators which results in the break-up of the international theft ring resulting in the recovery of $3 million worth of MP3 players goes unnoticed because there are no media present, because the company doesn’t want the publicity to jeopardize the three other investigations that are going on simultaneously.

· The company that installed the home burglar alarm may not be the proper responder when the alarm is activated.

· The “event staff” personnel are seen as being overly aggressive in removing the “…poor drunk guy…” from the concert – after he had just started the fight that knocked over the ten-thousand-dollar amplifier and injured 4 patrons.

In other words, the ordinary citizen cannot really know or understand the “security industry” because the industry is so vast and because “security guards” have such a diverse range of duties and responsibilities. And if you add into the mix the fact that many security strategies rely on unobtrusiveness to be successful……

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am willing to take the next phase in my occupation and after working professional security for several years, I'd want to polish up on my current expertise and also get a few new ones.