David Dickinson – Then And Now…

David Dickinson
David Dickinson

David Dickinson, former British Security Industry Association Chief Executive, who led the security industry through the crucial regulatory transition phase from 2002 to 2006, writes his third column for Infologue.com and discusses the regulation of the security industry.

“In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote to Jean-Baptiste Leroy “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. In late 2001, at the short-list interview for the position of Chief Executive of the BSIA, I quoted those words, but added a view that there was now another ‘certainty’ – that of change.  At the time, we were all hopeful that the change which we knew was coming as a result of the Private Security Industry Act; (PSIA) would be change for the better.  It would set a new platform for acceptance into the industry (at least in the regulated sector), the ‘cowboys’ would exposed for what they were and customers, suppliers and, most importantly their people, would all the better off in the brave new world.

“Of course we knew that it would add to costs and that those costs would need to be recovered from an understanding, if not willing, customer base.  Indeed, the BSIA and the SIA joined forces, supported by ACPO, to host a series of seminars to make sure that the message was clearly heard across the United Kingdom.  The outcome of that campaign was, for many, heartening and most looked forward to the future.  The cautious said they would wait and see, the realists felt it would take ten years before the benefits were really felt.  The relationship between the SIA and the industry became, taken all round, a healthy and (relatively) cooperative one and successive government ministers were ready to meet and talk and, yes, take advice on a regular basis.

“Whilst the mood music was good, the reality was that the Act, as it was drafted, was seriously flawed.  The decision to licence individuals directly went against the already published views of the ACPO, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, and the then Crime Prevention Agency and the British Security Industry Association. We all preferred licensing of the operating companies overseen by strict inspections. We tried very hard to have the Bill amended as it passed through both Houses but met with little success other than Charles Clarke MP,(who was Minister of State at the Home Office at the time), promising that the SIA would be able to amend the provisions of the PSIA retrospectively is they deemed it necessary. More than fifteen years later we are still waiting and that is not the fault of the SIA alone!

“Why recap on what most people know? Mainly to set the scene for what must come next.  That, put simply, is more change – but this time, change for the better across the whole of the industry.  Reading the many erudite contributions to Infologue over the past years, it is clear that change is needed, not least because the huge change in the potential threat level to both customers and operatives, which is already with us and which needs an urgent response from Government, providers and customers alike.

“The one thing that customers cannot do is to shrug off their statutory responsibility for injury or death on their premises, by clever contract conditions.  Nor can suppliers afford any longer to take the risk assessments of their clients or potential clients at face value, when formulating bids.  I commented, in my first piece for Infologue, on the CoESS initiative which is spreading its’ wings in mainland Europe seeking to address exactly that issue.  This is not the time for an ‘ostrich moment’ in the UK!

“The other major issue is the business licensing.  We hear that the present Government is committed to legislation in the next Parliament – if re-elected.  What would other political parties do?

“As I write this, we are fifty-eight days away from a General Election.  With the right will, the industry at large could bring massive pressure to bear on Parliamentary candidates ….. but whose job is it to make that happen?  That’s a subject for another day soon!!”

David is a security industry specialist managing a relatively orderly transition during the implementation of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and established the BSIA as a trusted partner of the SIA. Introduced the ‘Safercash’ initiative (with the fullest cooperation of the CVIT industry) and changed perceptions of the nature of CVIT crime with both senior police officers and Home Office Ministers resulting in important changes in police response and support. David’s career highlights includes:

1988 – 2000   Director, Group 4 Total Security Ltd.  Initially as Sales and Marketing Director and then with additional responsibilities as media spokesman and with operational responsibility for special (ie ‘sensitive’ assignments such as  Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference (Edinburgh) European Summit (Cardiff) and GB Summit (Birmingham) and from 1996, the annual Labour Party Conference. From the same year, Full operational responsibility for all Immigration Service contracts

2000 – 2002 Director and General Manager of Immigration Services, Global Solutions Ltd (Group 4 subsidiary).

April 2002 – December 2008 Chief Executive of British Security Industry Association. Managed relationships with Government ministers, civil service, The SIA and the police service and provided expanded services to BSIA member companies.