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A tale of two countries.


AFTER YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN military and civilian law enforcement in the United Kingdom as well as in various management positions with Pinkerton's in the United States, I thought I had seen or heard it all. Then I was transferred to the United Kingdom to start up and manage Pinkerton's offices there. After 13 years in the United States, I anticipated performing the same job in the United Kingdom. But the system of restrictions and controls on the security industry and the professionalism demanded by UK clients were unique.

The United Kingdom is probably the only Western nation with no existing legislation to govern the formation or practices of security companies. Suppose two friends, Bill and Joe, decide one day to form their own security company. The next day, Bill and Joe Security Limited can be in the marketplace.

Over the years, this lack of laws or controls has created many embarrassing situations for the British security industry. Convicted criminals have formed security companies, and their obvious intentions have led to predictable results. Regrettably, these incidents attracted the attention of the media; the resulting bad publicity adversely affected the industry as a whole.

To correct this situation, a self-policing organization was formed in 1966 - the British Security Industry Association (BSIA). The new association had a number of objectives. First, the government's Home Office (domestic oversight) had indicated a desire to establish a dialogue with the security industry, and BSIA provided the vehicle to set up such an exchange. In 1967, as a result of these discussions, the industry was given representation on the Home Office Standing Committee on Crime Prevention and its associate panels.

This relationship continues today. Through its affiliation with the Home Office, BSIA provides a direct link with the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland; the Police Federation of England and Wales; the Defence Manufacturers' Association; the Department of Trade and Industry; the Health Service; local authorities; and representatives of commerce and industry in general.

A second objective of the association was to provide an appropriate definition of a security company. This process was necessary to prepare guidelines for self-regulation and standard setting or for parliamentary legislation should a government consider that necessary in the future.

Also, the association hoped to provide a forum for discussion within the sections of the industries represented. Through these discussions, the association planned to achieve a consensus on policies and minimum professional standards to which BSIA members would commit themselves. This plan has been successful, and discussions on standards are continually evolving.

In 1976, the British government questioned whether there should be parliamentary intervention in the control of the contract security guard industry. The successor government, in 1979, concluded expensive and extensive legislation could not be justified and that self-regulation was the preferred route.

Consequently, while the security industry in the United Kingdom has no special legal obligation to self-regulate, it also possesses no special legal privileges. The only legislation passed by Parliament that deals with any part of the security industry is the Guard Dogs Act 1975, which was designed to address public concern about the use of guard dogs.

THE MOST REPUTABLE SECURITY companies in the United Kingdom belong to BSIA. The association consists of the following types of security companies:

* uniformed stationary and patrol officer companies

* store detective companies

* cash and valuables transportation services (including related activities such as filling cash payroll packets)

* parcel services

* closed-circuit television and alarm services

These industries are organized into sections composed of one representative from each member company. Ultimate authority for the association's affairs rests with its council. The council consists of elected representatives from each of the industry sections.

The director general of BSIA is John Wheeler, JP, an experienced and highly respected member of Parliament. The association has a full-time chief executive and secretary plus an administrative staff, all of whom work at BSIA's headquarters in Worcester, England.

The procedure for joining BSIA is involved, and membership is expensive. The applicant company must have a good reputation and have been in business for a minimum of two years. It must submit two sets of annual audited accounts with the membership application, which includes an enrollment fee of 120 [pounds] ($216). Also, companies are charged a fixed application fee of 500 [pounds] ($900) per branch plus 1.40 [pounds] ($2.52) per guard on the payroll. If the company is accepted into BSIA, its annual dues are 958 [pounds] ($1,724) plus the per capita guard fee.

As part of the application procedure, the BSIA Manned Services Inspectorate investigates the company and its senior management. In addition, the chief executive of the applicant company is interviewed in his or her office by three chief executives of member companies. The applicant company's facilities are also inspected, including the guard control room. The appearance and layout of the offices in general are evaluated.

If the company meets the overall criteria for membership, the section committee votes on its application. Once accepted as a member, the company is obliged to comply fully with BSIA's rules and regulations. To ensure companies are complying, the Inspectorate of Security Services checks out each branch office biannually. Disciplinary procedures for noncompliance are built into these inspections.

The Inspectorate of Security Services is headed by an inspector general who is assisted by two inspectors. The current inspector general is James Hargadon, formerly a senior police officer and managing director of a group of security companies. His two assistants have similar experience in the police and security fields.

Following the government's decision not to intervene in the regulation of the contract security services industry, BSIA established the National Inspectorate of Security Guard, Patrol, and Transport Service in 1982. Currently, this group inspects 43 companies and regulates more than 50,000 employees.

The principal function of the inspectorate is to monitor the performance of companies in BSIA's Guard and Patrol Section and Transport Section with respect to rules laid down by the Inspectorate Board. These rules principally relate to prescribed standards in vetting (preemployment screening) and training of staff. For example, background checks on all candidates for employment must go back 20 years.

A normal branch inspection takes a full day. It includes a review of personnel history files, vetting and training procedures, the training classroom, record keeping, the security of records, the security of the office, the guard control room, and all office facilities. In addition, interviews are conducted with the personnel officer, training officer, other management personnel, and the chief executive. The inspectorate also makes unannounced site inspections and contacts clients.

The results are compiled in a written inspection report, which is submitted to BSIA's director general before being sent to the company's chief executive. If failings are found, the inspector general schedules a reinspection and the company is charged a reinspection fee of 300 [pounds] ($550).

FOR CONTRACT GUARD COMPANIES, the primary benefit of membership in BSIA is commercial. Being accepted as a member and allowed to display the BSIA logo on company letterhead and advertising lets current and prospective customers know that a company has been inspected and approved by BSIA. In the United Kingdom, that relationship is the equivalent of receiving the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval in the United States.

BSIA membership also indicates that a company is financially sound, its staff is fully vetted and trained, and its practices are supervised and inspected regularly. In bidding situations, BSIA membership is, on most occasions, the criterion a client sets for allowing firms to participate.

BSIA also works actively on setting minimum standards for pay and working conditions for guards. It also restricts the number of hours guards can work. These standards apply throughout the industry.

The accompanying sidebar shows a sample of the standards set by BSIA on guard control rooms and training. The training standards are especially notable. In its efforts to professionalize the industry and its employees, BSIA has created minimum standards of performance that offer everyone - from guards to managers - an industry-wide career structure.

HAVING WORKED IN TWO SYSTEMS for governing security guard companies - government licensing in the United States and voluntary self-regulation in the United Kingdom - I am often asked which is better. When the government licenses companies, it seems most licensing authorities concentrate on the caliber of employees (specifically, the backgrounds of potential employees) and the methods used to determine if employees have criminal records. In my opinion, licensing stifles initiative and is bureaucratic and inflexible. Companies tend to comply only with the restrictions placed on them by the conditions for licensing and no more.

The self-regulation system administered by BSIA is far more in-depth. The association ensures that only job applicants with the appropriate background - free of criminal behavior - obtain employment. BSIA sets strict preemployment screening rules and inspects companies' adherence to these rules.

BSIA also takes on marketing responsibilities by encouraging and setting up contacts with current and prospective customers. In the United Kingdom, it is common for most potential clients to visit a security company's branch office or headquarters, tour the facilities - including the training rooms and guard control room - and speak to management and the chief executive.

BSIA influences the insurance world and is respected by government personnel and law enforcement officials. It represents the common consent of its members formed through discussions at all levels and fosters esprit de corps among members and their employees.

Recently, Pinkerton's chairman, Thomas Wathen, CPP, visited the United Kingdom company and was introduced to BSIA for the first time. He was impressed with the aims and objectives of the association, the supervision of industry practices it maintains, and the high standards of professionalism expected of member companies and their employees. He agreed with me that many of the tenets of the BSIA system could foster cooperative efforts toward professionalism in the US security industry.

The US system of licensing and the UK system of self-regulation are totally different ways to govern the security industry. If a combination of the best of both systems could be worked out, the result could be high quality control in the industry and top service for clients.

For example, having third-party assistance in gaining access to criminal records to ensure that security firms do not employ criminals is in everyone's best interest. Also, guards should be assured of an opportunity for ongoing career development and advancement. Finally, clients should be certain that both goals are being addressed because companies are subject to inspection. They could also be assured that their premises are protected by a professional officer who is thoroughly trained and committed to the prevention of crime.

Consider the following questions:

* Are clients certain they are getting the most professional service from the industry, or are purchasing departments choosing just any firm because they all appear to be the same?

* Are applicants for guard positions looking for a career opportunity or a stopgap job until something better comes along?

* What method corrects these problems - a self-regulatory association like BSIA or a government licensing authority?

Each of us needs to form an opinion. The future of our profession depends on the answers.

Anthony C. Purbrick is the managing director of Pinkerton's UK Limited. He also is director and vice president of the international division of Pinkerton's Inc. He joined the Pinkerton's organization in 1968. A native of Great Britain, Purbrick previously served for 15 years with Scotland Yard.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes sample security standards from the British Security Industry Association; private security in the United Kingdom & United States
Author:Purbrick, Anthony C.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Paving the way into the '90s.
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