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Makeover of a museum's security.


IN THE 1980S, PROVIDing security services is no longer merely a matter of preventing crime and enforcing the law. A good security program should also include a broad range of protective services that creates an environment of safety and well-being. Today, security officers may be asked to be hosts, guardians, police officers, and public relations specialists.

About a year ago, the management of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry requested that Levy Security Consultants Limited conduct an operational review of the museum's security department and make suggestions for improving it. Because incidents of violent crime had increased in the surrounding neighborhood, museum officials were becoming more concerned about the safety of employees and visitors. The museum's outdoor parking lots were particularly vulnerable to crime, and some of the hundreds of thousands of young visitors were unruly. At the time, the existing security department was perceived as ineffective.

The Museum of Science and Industry presents a formidable challenge for a security operation. One of the most popular museums in the world and Chicago's leading tourist attraction, the institution hosts about 4 million visitors a year--an average of 40,000 to 70,000 guests a day. The building, built in the neoclassical style as the Palace of Fine Arts for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, sits on 14 acres of land and contains 650,000 sq. ft. of floor space. Open every day of the year, the museum displays more than 2,000 exhibits in 75 major exhibit halls, including a working coal mine, a German submarine captured in World War II, the Apollo 8 spacecraft that first orbited the moon, and a 16-ft., walk-through heart. A majority of the visitors are youngsters.

Because of the particular needs of this museum, Levy Security focused on issues of public safety and loss prevention. In addition to the security operation, Levy Security was asked to evaluate the role of the guides and lecturers in relation to public safety, examine the first-aid and emergency medical services at the museum, review the personnel screening and selection procedures for sensitive areas of the museum, evaluate emergency plans for dealing with disasters, and investigate whether employees were abusing alcohol or drugs.

As part of the review, the company interviewed the principals involved in the existing security department and hired an undercover agent to determine if the performance and integrity of the staff measured up to professional standards. In general, Levy Security found that the security department was unprofessional in its management and supervision, without discernible goals or operating procedures, and not cost-effective. Also, security personnel were not screened before they were hired, neither the security officers nor their supervisors had received any formal training in their duties and responsibilities, no adequate written policy or procedural directives existed, and some members of the staff were guilty of unprofessional behavior and even gross misconduct.

The key to a good security department is personnel. Incompetent, untrained, and undisciplined security officers invariably provide unsatisfactory service. A clean background, good education, and integrity are important factors in the makeup of a security officer. For this reason, preemployment background investigations must be part of the selection process. Since background investigations had not been done for the museum's security officers, many had a checkered past.

In addition, under the legal definition of vicarious liability, employers can be held liable for the actions of their employees, so it is management's duty to train and supervise security personnel properly. There was a potential liability for the museum over negligence in retaining unsatisfactory personnel and in failing to train and supervise them properly.

Levy Security also found that the salary levels were below industry standards. Three factors have a bearing on salaries in the security field: The amount must be enough to attract and retain competent employees, the salary must provide a reasonable standard of living, and superior performance must be rewarded.

The most important aspect of any museum's security operation is crowd control or creating an atmosphere in which a visitor feels safe. Security personnel often have an important public relations function to perform as the first contact a visitor has with the museum. If authoritarian, police-oriented, fear-producing protection is evident, visitors will feel discomfort, a lack of well-being, and a climate of mistrust. For the museum visitor to enjoy his or her experience, the security staff, while being highly visible to deter any misconduct, has to be courteous and service-oriented. The existing staff did not measure up.

The Plan of Action

Following the operational review of the museum's security operations, Levy Security prepared a formal report of its findings and outlined a plan to remedy the problems. The protective services program for the Museum of Science and Industry stressed the correct attitude and appearance of its security officers or, as they were referred to in the museum, protective service officers.

The officers had to be trained in museum management's philosophy toward operating the museum, professional techniques of security and law enforcement, public safety, loss prevention, and fire prevention and control. Their dress and bearing had to communicate their mission of identifying and eliminating anything that would threaten visitors, employees, and exhibits in the museum. Their attitude had to show they are a part of the museum's team working for the welfare of all.

Levy Security proposed a reorganization of the security department in order to emphasize management and supervision more heavily. According to the reorganization plan, the newly named protective services department was to have a director of protective services to be responsible for the overall operation of the department; a deputy director to develop and maintain an aggressive and disciplined force; watch commanders, one for each shift, to ensure the operation runs smoothly; a staff investigator to conduct internal investigations of actions taken by the protective service officers; and tactical officers, or plainclothes detectives, to prevent juvenile crime, drug sales and use, and pickpocketing.

After examining the report, museum officials decided not only to reorganize the security department but to switch from an in-house department to an outside, contracted service. The museum then solicited proposals from 15 different security organizations. After reviewing the proposals, the officials selected Levy Security Consultants, who were to be responsible for recruiting, training, and retaining or firing the staff.

By January 1988, a new security program was ready to be implemented. Levy Security began by defining the mission of the protective services department--protecting people and property and maintaining order--and by defining the responsibilities of the staff. The company then installed sophisticated equipment and devices to act as countermeasures to crime. The radio communication system and the closed-circuit television monitoring system were upgraded. Also, employee identification cards were redesigned so the names would be in bold type and the photographs larger.

Bradley J. Williams, CPP, became director of protective services, and, though employed by Levy Security, reports directly to the museum's vice president for administration on day-to-day operations. According to Williams, on the day shift the museum uses 12 uniformed officers and a minimum of two plainclothes officers. One of the uniformed officers patrols the parking lots in a fully equipped squad car so visitors see evidence of security as soon as they pull in. When they get to the steps of the museum, they see another uniformed officer. When they enter the museum, a uniformed officer is in the main entrance hall.

Each shift has a watch commander and an assistant watch commander who are on the floor providing assistance to the officers. In addition to posts and patrol zones--such as balconies and stairwells--officers are assigned to service duties, such as escorting cashiers when they are carrying money to a safety deposit box or accompanying people to their cars. The department plans to initiate a key control program in which each key and lock will get an assigned number. Then, if a theft occurs, the investigating officer will know who has a particular key at any one time by looking the number up on a computer screen.

The initial training program for the new staff of officers was a week of classroom instruction that included an orientation program in the history, administration, and physical layout of the museum; exposure to the new procedures and policy manual; instruction in patrol techniques, civil and criminal liability, arrest procedures, search and seizure, and the use of force; guidelines on how to write reports and use the department's forms; training in the use of the communications equipment; and a course in fire-fighting techniques.

Since then, new officers have been given a minimum of three days of on-the-job training with a designated officer. That training is documented, and the trainee must demonstrate such skills as search-and-seizure techniques, dealing with the public, and handling crises.

Each new officer must undergo a rigorous screening process that involves an initial interview, preemployment screening techniques, reference check, interview with a director, orientation through the human resources department, and a 60-day probation period. The ideal candidate deals easily with a wide variety of people, is able to answer questions accurately and courteously, has a pleasing appearance, handles crisis situations without panicking, and is dependable. Many of these traits can be assessed in an initial interview by the way the candidate answers questions.

A contract security service has many advantages for a company. The main advantage is that it provides a professionally run service that trains, supervises, and disciplines employees. Another advantage is avoiding liability problems. The moment a company puts itself in the security business, it is exposed to the risk of civil liability for the actions of its security personnel. In addition to providing a training program aimed at diminishing this liability risk, a contract service company may carry a liability policy that protects the company as well.

The experience of providing a highly visible, service-oriented security program for the Museum of Science and Industry has been positive for both the museum and the Levy organization. The most significant lesson to come out of this experience is the value of a service-oriented approach to security.

PHOTO : Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry is a formidable security challenge.

About the Author. . .Barry W. Levy, CPP, is chairman and chief executive officer of Levy Security Consultants Limited in Chicago, IL. Levy Security administers loss prevention departments for a number of hospitals, department stores, shopping centers, and residential communities in the Chicago area.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry
Author:Levy, Barry W.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1989
Previous Article:Investigator, know thyself.
Next Article:The contentious problem of key control.

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