The Security Institute welcomes the Four Issues, One Voice campaign, which looks at a number of important strands in the current bid to regulate the industry. We are ardent supporters of the Security Industry Authority’s (SIA) efforts, and applaud not only the many achievements the Regulator has already made, but also the way in which it has helped the security business sector move forward in recent years. We also acknowledge the measures taken by the Regulator to consult with the many and varied representatives of a diverse and complex industry. Now, as before, we believe that the profession continues to have a significant part to play in influencing the SIA’s work. The opening salvos of your campaign launch article Four Issues, One Voice include the statement: “Regulation of the private security industry will become fully-effective, but probably not for around six months following the 20 March deadline day.” Alas, that statement is not true. Regulation of the security industry – we would call it a profession – has begun, but it has a long way to go before it becomes a fully-effective solution. That is why the joint SMT/Infologue.com campaign will be so important.
Campaign 1: Licensing of in-house officers.
It is hard to see what case could be made for not going forward with the licensing of in-house security staff. The public should have the reassurance that a uniformed security officer with whom they are dealing is licensed, with that this entails: they should not have to guess. It’s not unreasonable to have a two-tier system in place, whereby the contracted-in officer is demonstrably trained and without a criminal record, and the in-house individual is not. I say this despite my firm belief, based on experience as a corporate security director, that in-house teams are often selected and trained against standards that contract guarding companies frequently cannot match.
Campaign 2: Equal representation on the SIA Board
Of course, the profession being regulated by the SIA should be represented on the Board. What’s even more important, though, is that security practitioners be represented in the SIA’s workforce. In many peoples’ eyes, the Regulator’s credibility is massively damaged because this is not the case at present. Protestations that the non-employment of security practitioners is not a deliberate policy is a line that is neither believed nor consistently maintained. As I have previously stated, imagine a body tasked with regulating lawyers or doctors that has no lawyers or doctors within it, but does possess significant numbers of ex-policemen! However well-intentioned either in theory or in practice, consultation is no substitute for representation. Until security professionals can see that they have a voice within the SIA, they will not believe that the skill set to which they have given their whole working lives is properly understood by that body.
Campaign 3: Fair charging
The points made in Four Issues, One Voice in relation to fair charging are well-reasoned. I have never understood why it was thought companies would want to pay the fees for a three-year licence, and then have, say, only two years’ worth of value. The simplest solution – and one which would also have allowed the staggering of renewal dates – would have been to grant three-year licences but at fees reflecting only the portion of that timescale that fell after the licensing date. However, this is sorted out now. An equitable solution should be found. As for questions concerning the Approved Contractor Scheme, that pertaining to cost – which is clearly a problem for smaller security companies – ignores the more important issue. Namely that it has driven a coach and horses through a core principal of regulation and licensing: security officers deployed on site should first be trained and vetted. Problems in achieving that goal have been circumvented by finding a way of abandoning it.
Campaign 4: Cutting red tape
Cutting red tape is always desirable! The two examples you cite in the original Four Issues, One Voice article are ones where, at least in part, current requirements are unnecessary and detract from public safety and confidence in the security process. The constant frustration of skilled and experienced practitioners stems largely from the fact that the contradictions inherent in some of these areas need to be looked at by regulatory staff who understand the not-entirely-simple business of security. The profession needs to be able to debate technical operational security issues with suitably-qualified staff from within the SIA. I am a strong supporter of the Regulator, and feel both sadness and frustration when I attend security conferences and listen to senior practitioners outlining serious operational difficulties that they are now facing because they cannot find a point of contact within the SIA both available to them and capable of understanding specific security issues.
*Bill Wyllie FSyI – Chairman – The Security Institute