Monday, April 09, 2018

Not Just Guns And Laws

I feel as bad and outraged about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school in Parkland, Florida as anyone – I truly do. And I understand the frustration of the students and parents and staff at this school and others across the country who want something – anything – done to prevent such incidents in the future. I have listened to and read the heated comments about this incident, the calls for banning guns and more “gun control” (whatever that means). But I am outraged as much about what I haven’t heard or read.

Because of what I do for a living, I have dissected and analyzed this incident (and most of the others like it) both frontwards and backwards. And what I rarely see (the shooting from Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas being a notable exception) is any outrage directed toward the place where the shooting occurred…in other words, the lack of security which allowed such an event to happen.

Consider just these few issues related to Stoneman Douglas school:

· There was nothing or no one to identify, prevent, restrict or impede the armed shooter from being on the school grounds – no outdoor access control. 

· There was nothing or no one to monitor, identify, screen, prevent, restrict or impede the armed shooter from getting into the school – no perimeter access control. 

· There was nothing or no one to monitor, screen, prevent, restrict, impede or limit the armed shooter from roaming through the school once he got in – no interior access control or response plan. 

· There was the questionable response from the school resource officer who failed to immediately enter the school to engage the shooter.  

But of course the measures needed to remedy these shortcomings – which are unfortunately common at most schools across the country – require more resources, and nobody wants their taxes raised or additional fees imposed.

The point I am trying to make is that there is no single or simple fix to prevent these types of incidents. We need to expend resources to reasonably harden our schools and other “soft targets.” We need to assure that we have adequate plans in place to respond to these kinds of incidents because there is no such thing as perfect or absolute security and such situations will surely be attempted in the future. And perhaps most importantly we need to expend resources to identify and deal with the kinds of aberrant people and behaviors which commit these heinous acts.  

What we don’t have to do is focus all the blame and attention on banning guns and creating more gun laws, because to do so ignores the real roots of the problem.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Security In Today’s World

We claim to be winning the war on terrorism; and we base this claim on the fact that there have been relatively few significant terrorist acts in the recent past.  (This does of course make a distinction between extremist/radical terrorism and homegrown domestic violence/terrorism – although the lines are becoming more and more blurred.) 

But our sense of accomplishment and almost-victory is belied by reality.  The bad guys – whatever their ilk – are in fact winning.  To make my point, consider the following:
·        Heavily armed law enforcement officials patrol downtown areas and sporting venues and public buildings and transportation hubs and election sites.  The Super Bowl is classified as a National Security Event.
·        The airplane experience has no resemblance to what it used to be:  removing shoes, physical body searches, extensive baggage screening, waiting lines to enter plane areas and board are now the norm.
·        The places we went to feel safe and to “get away from it all” – the movie theatres and restaurants and resorts and public parks and shopping malls are now the scenes of cruel and deadly attacks and murders.  We now go armed to those places.
·        The places we went for comfort and solace and healing and education – schools, churches, hospitals, day care centers, rehab facilities – are now places where the bad guys know they can prey upon the defenseless.
So with all these changes to the way we feel and the way we must now live, can we really say that we are “winning” the war on terrorism? 
I think there is some comfort and consolation in knowing that bad events are still relatively infrequent.  But I also think that we must never let our sense of comfort overshadow our sense of realization that we still live in an unpredictable and not-so-safe world.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Being An “Expert”

In the security profession  – or in any discipline really – being an “expert” or “expert witness” is usually not a position to which one aspires at an early age.  It often comes first as an ancillary endeavor, then perhaps as a full-time profession.  It usually comes mid-career, and often endures past career prime and even past normal retirement time.  So how does one “become” an expert?  Is there a course or test that must be taken to “become” an expert?  Here’s the reality:
One does not necessarily seek recognition as an “expert;” and “expert” is not a connotation or designation bestowed on oneself – it is status or standing in one’s profession as attested to and recognized and conferred by others.  Therefore, there is – and really can be – no course of study or training program or test that culminates with the title of “expert” since a true “expert” does not become so until the expertise is recognized by others.
An “expert” is generally recognized for a composite of professional education, training, experience, expertise, analytical skills, writing skills, presentation skills, involvement in professional organizations, involvement in professional activities as a volunteer, professional and personal integrity, professional and personal credibility – and having a good track record in all the aforementioned.  And in addition to these attributes, “experts” usually have some other traits that are acknowledged by others:   He is the “go-to” guy within his organization;  he is a “go-to” guy within one’s industry and/or among one’s professional peers;  he is actively sought to help with resolving problems or improving operations or developing strategies or developing policies and procedures – being sought to do for others what they should/could be doing for themselves.  He is regarded as the person who will almost undoubtedly do the right thing or have the right answer at the right time.
So being the smartest man in the world by self-appointment – even if true – does not make one an “expert” as the term is being used here.  Rather, it is the acknowledgement by others that one is the right person to do a particular job that distinguishes one as an “expert.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Words To Live – Or Stay Living – By

In the world of security, as in many facets of life, an old adage is absolutely true:  It is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Concept Of “Reasonable Security”

Every organization has a legal obligation to provide a safe environment, based on the concept of “reasonable security.”  The owner/landlord does not have to guarantee absolute security.  However,  reasonableness and adequacy of security must be affirmatively demonstrated.  This basic concept is founded in most states’ case law (and, in some states, in statutory law).  In today’s world, there is virtually no place that can claim that no security is adequate.

The implementation or existence of a security program in and of itself does not guarantee that the program is adequate and sufficient, since the standard by which a security program will be judged is reasonableness with regard to foreseeable threats and risks at a specific place.

“Reasonable security” has been consistently defined by premises security case law to mean that appropriate security measures must be implemented commensurate with risks which are reasonably foreseeable at a specific place.  And a reasonable consideration of foreseeability has been determined to include the nature of the premises; the history of incidents at the premises; the history of incidents in geographic surroundings; and  any relevant industry standards.

Adequacy of security is legally defensible only when  vulnerabilities and risks are assessed via some conscious or formalized process to determine foreseeability, and commensurate security measures then  implemented to reasonably address those identified foreseeable risks (this is the usual standard by which adequacy and sufficiency of security is determined by courts).
A good process for developing a sound security strategy has dual benefits:  The program will be designed to protect the organization’s assets; and the program will be legally defensible should it be challenged in court.


Friday, June 12, 2015



good security means doing things that are not politically correct – you can’t always have it both ways;

doing the right thing is more important than following the rules or being politically correct;

the perception of good security is as good as or better than the reality;

there isn’t a good choice – sometimes you must choose between the best of the bad choices;

the end does justify the means;

it’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6;

popularity of an issue does not equate to fairness or justice;

a verdict has nothing to do with a good or bad prosecution strategy or a good or bad defense strategy –sometimes a verdict is based simply on facts and evidence;

“justice” fueled by public opinion and media and political pressure is not really justice;

“justice” is not what someone wants it to be – sometimes justice is simply what is;

the cutest puppy has the meanest growl and the sharpest teeth;

you get what you want, but sometimes you get what you deserve.


there is virtually nothing that is purely or simply black or white.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Value In “Dummy” Surveillance Cameras?

As both a former Director of Security and now an independent security consultant, I have rarely been a proponent of using “dummy” cameras as part of a security strategy.
Real cameras are used for several general purposes:  To monitor areas/events in real time to (hopefully) initiate appropriate response as needed; and/or to record areas/events for investigative/documentation purposes; and/or to provide a visible deterrent to inappropriate activities;  and/or to provide a heightened sense of security to the area’s legitimate users.
With that being the case for real cameras, here are the operational downsides of using “dummy” cameras:  Obviously, there is no real-time monitoring of areas/events possible, so appropriate response to problems is not possible (and it would be cost-prohibitive – and economically foolish – to try to replace cameras with personnel); and obviously, there is no recording of events for investigative/documentation purposes (the chances of personnel being able to provide comparable information are slim).   On the plus side, there might be a comparable visible deterrent to inappropriate activity, especially if the cost savings of “dummy” cameras vs. real cameras is used to provide additional “dummies.”  But even that deterrent value might be negated if poor-quality “dummy” cameras (an oxymoron?) are used which are easily identified as “dummies” because of no lights or wiring connections.  (NOTE:  the only time I have ever used “dummy” cameras was to add the impression of even more cameras to an application of real cameras which already covered everything I wanted covered.
But to me, the primary problem with the use of “dummy” cameras is an unnecessary and thus unacceptable  increase in liability.   The heightened sense of security for legitimate area users is totally negated when it is learned that there is no real protection being afforded. Legitimate users will feel betrayed and tricked when the truth is learned (and it will be – someone will find out somehow). And the worse-case scenario will be when an incident occurs and a victim questions and learns why there was no ready response or at least visual documentation of the event.  I have been involved in such cases as an expert witness (this would most probably evolve as a premises security liability lawsuit based on inadequate security) and have been able to opine that the “dummy” cameras created a false sense of security that did not truly exist, and this is actually worse than having no cameras of any kind:  at least if there are no cameras present, legitimate users will not have any expectations as to the level of security and may thus be more aware of their own responsibility for personal security; where on the contrary a legitimate user may be less aware of personal security issues since he believes that he is being “helped” by real cameras.
Bottom line for me:  “Dummy” cameras have the potential to cause more problems than they solve.