David Dickinson – Whose job is it anyway?

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 fourth column for Infologue.com and discusses responsibility for changing the security industry. David writes: “In my last piece for Infologue, I spoke in very general terms about the desire, and indeed need, for change for our industry and, perhaps even more importantly, the changes which are being forced upon it by circumstances.

“First, the circumstantial change. It must be clear to everyone that the world is a significantly more dangerous place than it was even twelve years ago when the Private Security Industry Act was implemented in full. The level of risk to people, whether employed in the security provision, or the recipients of its services, is higher and more varied and, oddly, often more difficult to define. There are inevitably, many variables, but there still seems to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach in many invitations to tender. Equally, there is a failure amongst many industry clients to recognise the unique nature of an effective and efficient security provision, much less the hidden value in terms of loss prevention that a professional service can provide. This latter point may explain the increasing popularity of, and reliance on, on ‘bundled service packages’.

“It is said that the late J. C. Bamford had notices in his plants saying ‘expense walks in on two legs’- in our world that could so easily read ‘security risks have two feet’! It begs the question as to who will ensure that the non-licensed people in any bundled service provision meet the declared security needs of the client.

“If, on behalf of our clients and our people, we are to deal properly with the existing and emerging risks and threats, then there has to be a change in the whole bidding process and clients must be urged to revert to assessment of bids on the basis of demonstrated professionalism, quality of management, support infrastructure and, in this new situation, demonstrate their crisis management capabilities. The advice of the in-house director or manager responsible for security should, once again, have precedence over the calculations of commercial advantage by procurement professionals. It is easy to pretend that ‘they are all alike’ when bids are solicited on the basis of rigid specifications so that price can become the arbiter.

“(One of the best and most successful security operations, in which I was personally involved, started with a briefing of all bidders which took two minutes. We were all told “we have six large operations within a few miles of each other. We want you to bid to keep them safe and secure. We will judge you on the depth of professionalism you show in your proposed solutions. Be as wacky as you like! We were wacky to the point of being surprised at our own wackiness, and we won the assignment! Only then did we discuss the cost.)

“Separate from these considerations, but connected nonetheless, are the issues around changing the regulatory regime which have been well-rehearsed but which still need a serious final push to make sure the next Government hears, loud and clear, not only what the industry wants and needs from them, but also what it can deliver in return. With homeland security climbing the agenda almost daily , the opportunity for privately-employed (and financed) security officers to support the public sector cannot be long ignored. Nor can all parties health and safety responsibilities, especially in respect of potential corporate manslaughter charges, not be a real and present concern.

“So, to return to the question ‘whose job is anyway’? The answer clearly lies with anyone and everyone who has the best interests of our people, our industry and, yes, our country at heart. But leadership is needed. The time for holding meetings, at however an exalted level, is past. What is surely needed is the assembling of all interested parties – the trade associations, the SIA, possibly the CBI and ACPO’s successor body to define how all those parties and their respective members will interact. That done, the campaign can get underway. Government once convinced will surely act. So who should take the lead? And more importantly, when?”

David is a security industry specialist who spend fourteen years as a Group 4 director handling a variety of tasks and responsibilities including security operations at major national and international Government conferences.

In late 2001 he was selected as Chief Executive of the BSIA where he led the industry through the implementation of the Private Security Industry Act, forging high quality relationships with key stakeholders in Government, the Regulator and the police service at all levels.