A few weeks ago, we learned that the regulator decided that there was insufficient evidence to justify the licensing of in-house security personnel, writes The Security Institute Chairman, Mike Bluestone. The SIA’s mantra is that there is no risk to public safety from that decision. Public safety is of course a paramount objective, but so too is the raising of standards. How can it be right that in both theory and practice, in the UK in 2009, a fully trained and licensed and CRB checked contract guarding team could be managed and supervised by in-house security staff who may hold criminal convictions, and never been through a day’s security training? Now if that isn’t a public safety issue, then I don’t know what is!

Many readers will no doubt (like your correspondent) remember those heady days back in 2004/5 when most British guarding contractors were in top gear and fully engaged in the licensing process, and were trying to cope with the requirements of the newly formed SIA, as well as getting their corporate heads around the voluntary Approved Contractors Scheme. It was at that time that I had begun working in the guarding sector as the training and development director for one of the UK’s leading guarding contractors. We had formed a training academy, and were busy training not just our own security officers, but also in-house guarding teams employed by external clients. My time working in the guarding sector was relatively short, but nevertheless, very fulfilling.

I will never forget being so impressed by the visionary managers of those in-house teams who told me that they had seen the ‘writing on the wall’, and felt that it was only a matter of a time before the regulator would include in-house guarding personnel within the licensing process. Those same managers stated that for them, the absence at that time of a mandatory requirement for licensing, and training of their personnel was not the issue, since they believed, as I did, that the requirements for guarding contractors would ‘raise the bar’ for all security officers, and that essentially, the issue was about best practice and the raising of standards.

At long last, we had a regulator, and as well as keeping out the criminals and ‘cowboys’, we could now focus on instilling real training standards, and giving end users a private security sector to be proud of. How wrong we all were! Perhaps the SIA has forgotten that the Private Security Industry Act 2001 makes specific reference to the regulator making recommendations and proposals for the ‘…maintenance and improvement of standards in the provision of security industry services and other services involving the activities of security operatives…’

Mike Bluestone MA FSyI MCMI is Director of Security Consulting at CIA Excel Group and the current Chairman of the Security Institute