Chris Cully, the Managing Director of risk & security management company, Dilitas writes exclusively for Infologue.com about Licensing for All.
The Security Industry Authority (SIA) was formed to bring standardisation, improved quality and enhanced service delivery. It was also intended to weed out and remove any criminal elements that were using the security industry for their own benefits. Although trumpeted as the genesis of a new era in security, (my words, not those of the SIA or Labour government), in hindsight it is difficult to know if we have really achieved some of the greater objectives that the SIA were expected to deliver.
Perhaps the above is a somewhat acerbic view of the formation of the SIA and its effects on the UK security industry. However, few can disagree at the chaos and upset caused by the SIA’s initial grasp of the security industry and their attempts to license various parts thereof. This level of disruption has slowly lessened over the intervening years and, in many ways, has turned out to be a ‘busted flush’, as the initial draconian requirements to be suitably trained, validate your identity and be free of a criminal record, have lessened, weakened and, in some circumstances, failed as time has passed.
The jewel in the crown for the Blair government, ever keen to impose Stazi-like control over the masses, was to regulate the investigators and surveillance operators. However, this died the death with the arrival of the Cameron/Clegg Road Show. Indeed, the civil servants hiding within the tunnels and catacombs of the SIA, huddled for warmth and succour as their very existence then looked threatened.
But, life returned to normal. The SIA survived and plans were put in place to amend or indeed morph the SIA into something slightly different.
Then came Leveson and the exposure of the behaviour of journalists and media barons alike. The exposure left little to the imagination. The entire matter was pushed up several gears when it transpired that senior police officers, politicians and the Prime Minister himself were all in cahoots with one another. The final humiliation for all concerned was that the Prime Minister refused to impose any form of regulation on the press, touting the great banner of ‘Free Speech’ for all to see, as the over arching reason why the press should remain unshackled and uncontrolled.
There has, since then, been a steady stream of articles from the press, focusing everybody’s attention on the security industry and, very subtly, laying the blame for the abuse of privacy on the investigators and security professionals within the UK.
As the press finger pointing began, by strange coincidence, the Home Secretary steps forward with plans to finally license investigators for the good of the public and the protection of their privacy. However, by strange and thumping coincidence, those who will be absented for the need to become licensed investigators will be journalists engaged in researching genuine articles for publishing. Methinks there is something extremely smelly in the state of Denmark, to paraphrase the Bard.
There is no doubt that licensing will come upon us and, as before, a variety of companies will generate courses that will be accredited by Edexcel and similar organisations. Everybody will come forward to complete said courses, then leap through more hoops and pay more fees to become a licensed investigator.
Needless to say, the British Security Industry Authority (BSIA), The Security Institute, ASIS, et al, plus the ever present plethora of academics with which the security industry seems to be now knee-deep, will all pontificate at length and be keen to stamp their mark thereon.
So, eventually, if you wish to investigate for a fee, you will need to be licensed, unless you are a journalist, of course. Is this a good thing? Who knows? The licensing of security officers, close protection officers and door-staff has, in theory, improved the quality of the operators in the security industry and brought some standardisation to their training and service provision.
In retrospect, the arrival of the SIA and the licensing of our industry achieved some of its goals. However, it caused many of the good operators to leave the industry. Conversely, it has allowed many people into the industry who really do not belong herein. I refer to those feeble souls who have neither the natural capability nor street wise “savvy” to function effectively as security operators.
Unfortunately, their licence allows them to be here having passed through the hands of poor trainers who are more focused on getting business, than providing a high level of training, as originally espoused by the SIA, and weeding out those not suitable for the job.
So I fear, will it be with the licensing of investigators. The industry will eventually be full of ‘licensed investigators’ who have completed a ‘course’ but probably could not investigate their own fundamental orifices with a team of Cartographers and Proctologists to assist.
Again, standards will fall and the real, experienced investigators will possibly drift away for the new breed of licensed investigators to ply their trade with limited but nonetheless, licensed skills.