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Giving something back.

As age seems to be creeping up on you and some of the old functions occasionally dysfunction, you find there is time for reflection on life, liberty, and the career you followed all those years. I have had that occasion recently and found, like most of us, that my law enforcement and private security career gave me a pretty good life and living and that I really have nothing to complain about. I accomplished some things, met some good people, and maybe did some small things that I might be remembered for in the crime/loss prevention field.

Before I get too nostalgic, let me tell you about something I did in the last year that gave me a great deal of satisfaction. Now that I reflect on it, it also gave me some feelings of pride that I might have given something back to this profession.

For a year or so, a professor of criminology from a state university had been asking if I would teach a college course in private security. I said I would give it some thought and deferred any decision for quite some time. I kept saying to myself, "You are on the back nine of your life, somewhere around the 17th hole. Do you really want to get involved in something like this?"

You go through some serious proscrastination when it involves major changes in your regimented life of semiretirement. There are all kinds of excuses you can dream up for not doing things if they make you use your brain or move from that easy chair, where you were reading a good book by Tom Clancy or James Michener.

In any case, one day in early January 1990, I received a call from Dr. Marson Johnson, academic administrator in the Department of Criminology at the Lakeland Campus of the University of South Florida, informing me that "classes begin on Monday." He said I should meet him at the main campus in Tampa to start my teaching assignment in Private Security Systems. Now, that's decision making for you. And when decisions are made, so be it.

With a quick question about the text being used for the course, and finding I was not familiar with it, I agreed to meet Dr. Johnson and start teaching that Monday.

For the next few days, I asked myself more than a few questions about what in the world I had done. However, I reported for duty. And that begins the story of how I was introduced to these students who were located in three-I repeat, three-classrooms.

I was to teach these students in a studio class, which had an overflow of students in Tampa requiring two classrooms, plus a classroom on the Lakeland campus. This required using television cameras to video my lectures from the main studio classroom. Television monitors were located in the other two classrooms so students could view me. Capability for interaction between classrooms was provided, and students in the other classrooms could ask questions and participate in class work.

Once I got used to being on camera, it worked. It takes a little getting use to, however. I had some problems with putting my hand in my pocket and jiggling coins as well as some other strange actions, such as moving papers or playing with a pen.

In addition, I had to read the textbook and try to stay ahead of the students. To prepare for class, I outlined my presentation in lesson plans taken from the text and added life experiences to accentuate the points brought out in the text.

I also brought in audiovisuals I had produced over the years to emphasize or describe these lessons. I used some of my films on loss prevention orientation, substance abuse, burglary, and pilferage. These films were projected to all classrooms through the television monitors. A number of security forms, audits, and photographs I had designed or acquired over the years were also projected to the students through a video camera that looked down on my lecture table. I would place the form or photo on the table, and it would appear on the monitors.

The students were required to research and write a term paper on any subject dealing with private security. They were given the alternative of conducting a security survey of a business or a private residence and preparing a report along with recommendations to harden the security of the facility. Some of these students reported they convinced their parents to make some changes in their homes for better protection.

Then I was required to make up a midterm examination from the text, handouts, and other materials I had reviewed with the students. Framing the 100 questions was a new experience for me, but I adapted quite well by creating 200 questions. This allowed the Department of Criminology to select what it felt might be the best questions from that collection.

Fortunately, exams today are scored by computer rather than the tedium of pen or pencil tallying. Grading the term papers was handled by the academic administrator, as I did not feel competent to approach the requirements of format, grammar, English usage, punctuation, etc., but could only reflect on the content of the papers.

Since the subject of ethics in security and law enforcement is usually given little attention, I discussed this important topic from the standpoint of my own values. If I came across any point of interest that I hoped would be accepted and absorbed by these students during the entire semester, the subject of ethics was that topic. With today's pervasive attitude of greed, I welcomed the opportunity to do some sermonizing with these young people who were preparing for their careers.

The text in this course was fairly good, with some superfluousness of detail possibly not required in college. However, you can always be selective in the material with students, then allow them to read the balance of the text for their own information.

On more than one occasion I have said I would write my own book on loss prevention. Haven't we all? In any case, whether I get around to doing that is another story at this stage in my life.

I might add that lecturing students using career experiences to supplement the text is not all war stories. When you can emphasize a point reviewed in the text with an actual incident from your background, it brings to life for students what a dry text is trying to discuss. To relate burglary scenes you have witnessed, CCTV applications you observed, interviews and interrogations you have conducted in internal theft matters, and conflicts and frustrations you have experienced in selling security to your superiors brings students into the picture of what security is all about.

Although the students were predominantly criminal justice majors, a few were majoring in business. I was delighted to have the opportunity to try to develop some security-conscious business administrators with my lectures. We need all the help we can get in convincing corporate managers to dedicate themselves to loss prevention.

I also was enlightened to learn that a couple of the students had reconsidered their careers and now had a greater interest in private security than in law enforcement and corrections. Like all good missionaries, we can only hope to keep our converts once we anoint them.

The final examination again required preparation of a battery of new questions, which by now I was becoming adept at designing. From remembering my college days, I am not a hard tester. I consider testing an extension of lecturing. From years of lecturing to police officers, security people, employees of organizations, and business executives, I have developed a technique of instruction: I tell them what I'm going to tell them, then I tell them, and finally I tell them what I told them.

To me, testing is where I tell them what I told them. The questions reemphasize the points I really wanted them to absorb during the lectures. The students' scores for these examinations, except for those students who chose not to attend lectures, reflect that they did ingest my material.

So, how do I rate myself in handling this teaching assignment? I can't! That's for others to decide-the students and the teaching professionals in that department.

But how do I feel about this assignment? I feel very good about it. It was an opportunity to interact with young people again. It stimulated the tired, old brain to perform activities not required of it for a few years. It also did some things for the ego again. There is still some use for old security men besides reflection on past glories and blunders.

I commented to these students that the progression of positions in the security field might be as follows. You start out as a security practitioner until you bum out from dealing with management's casual ideas about security. Then you move on to consulting, where you work until frustration with businesses' budget restrictions requires you to consider other options. And finally, you end up teaching, where some satisfaction is received from all the foregoing preparation to instruct in the subject.

Can I recommend these teaching assignments to others in the security field? You bet I can! Should the opportunity come your way, take it. And if no one asks you to try it, seek out a university, college, or community college that offers criminology or criminal justice courses and urge it to consider adding a private security course to its curriculum and then adding you to its staff to teach it.

If you are seriously interested in teaching, contact the Academy of Security Educators and Trainers (ASET), which maintains a list of higher learning institutions that offer private security courses. ASET can direct you to an institution near you to establish a connection. The academy can also help you select text material and other data to support a private security program for college students.

Finally, I encourage you to think about using the valued experience you have accumulated over the years as a practitioner or consultant in security by teaching others. You can extend your own professional life span in security by instructing young people in our chosen profession. I don't know if I will teach again, but I did have a heck of a good time doing it. And that's enough jollies for this old security man.

About the Author ... L. Richard Bergstrom, CPP, is president of Staff Orientation Systems, an audiovisual program specialist company in Sun City, FL. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:security professionals should share their experience by teaching young people
Author:Bergstrom, L. Richard
Publication:Security Management
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Words:1766
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