There is a commercial that is running nationally that, to me, exemplifies the attitude of security companies and their clients. It is the way that they wish their protection to react in any situation. Whether that situation is a robbery, workplace violence (WPV), or other criminal behavior.
In the commercial a burglary is taking place at a home. You hear someone in distress and then a woman say “Do something!” A man pipes up and states succinctly “Oh, I’m just a monitor. I just tell you if there is a break-in. There’s a break-in.” It is meant to alert you for the need for their services, a credit protection company.
It may sound idiotic and stupid. It actually sounds funny in the commercial. But it is not funny and definitely stupid and idiotic. However, that is exactly what security companies and their clients want from their ‘guards’.
Observe and report. Nothing more nothing less. It is the same as seeing a crime unfold in front of them and they say “Oh, I can’t stop them I’m only a monitor. There’s a crime taking place.” Is that realistic or even acceptable? And it won’t protect the company or client from being legally responsible for any injury or loss.
I’ve written about this several times in the past. I don’t believe in the simple observe and report mentality. I don’t like it and never will. I didn’t like it when I was a lonely security officer in a dark manufacturing plant at 0200 on a Sunday. Now that I’m blind and can’t work in the field I love so much I like it even less.
There are just too many threats in the world for clients and companies to get away with saying “We weren’t told to do that” or “It was not within our scope of responsibility to prevent or do more to stop that crime/murder.”
The clients on the other hand will say “We didn’t pay them enough to think or react, just to be there and be a presence.” That presence is nothing more than window dressing on a manikin. Security officers are on site to provide nothing more than a good feeling and warm fuzzies for management.
In order to have professional security officers that can do more than observe and report they need to be better recruited and given more than smoke up their skirt about the possibilities on the job. Those possibilities range from pay, advancement, as well as potential dangers and issues that may arise.
They need to also have the training to be more effective at completing their duties and responsibilities on whatever post they are assigned to. Not only the normal security duties but also CPR & First aid, terrorism, WPV, bio hazards, chemical spills, and customer service, in addition to other items that are site specific.
It should go without saying that supervision and management of the officers needs to be more than complacent as well. Without adequate supervision even the best of officers can sink in their job performance. If they drop in their performance, then the client and their employees will have their lives and property placed at risk.
The last issue that needs to be addressed to have professional security officers that can do more than observe & report is their pay. That in turn means the clients need to fess up more money for officers. Unfortunately, if the insurance breaks that most clients get for maintaining security falls below what they pay for the service…
The service is then considered unnecessary at that price and they will find a provider who will gladly take the account to observe & report, at a substantial cost savings. Until someone gets murdered at work or a huge financial loss is incurred because of inadequate training, pay, and/or supervision.
Is all of this saying there isn’t a position for someone to stand on a construction site and walk around all night looking for something out of place? Possibly not a job for someone in coveralls to stand over a hole in the sidewalk or street all night to simply observe and ensure no one gets hurt? Not at all. There will always be security jobs for those kinds of sites at a minimum wage.
However, that is why the stereotype of a guard instead of a professional designation such as officer is still used 100 years after it became part of the vernacular. The term guard evolved from watchman and it took hundreds of years to do that.
The stereotype of a sleeping potbellied guard sleeping in their guard shack all night with a pot of coffee, cigarette, or worse, bottle of booze needs to be left behind. It is as outdated as observe & report. They both demean the position that is entrusted to these people.
In today’s world the threats are real and no longer perceived. The C-suite, facility general managers, and so on down the line need to wake up and realize what we ask of these officers. They are asking us to take care of the facility, sometimes in excess of a billion dollars, for less than $10 per hour, or possibly…a bit more, but not nearly enough.
We ask them to walk through dimly lit parking lots, hallways, and enter rooms with no lighting at all. We ask them to investigate things that go bump in the warehouse at 0300. We want a master’s degree kind of person to write reports for less than people spend on lunch per hour.
If we get rid of the observe & report mentality within the security field, will that increase professionalism? We can hope but it is one of those things that have to constantly be monitored and enforced. If we don’t then our officers will become complacent and it becomes easier to say ‘just this once’. Do we really want just someone to observe & report on potentially serious, think deadly, situations?
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I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear