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May your force be with you.


DECIDING WHETHER TO CONTRACT OUT FOR GUARD SERVICES or develop an in-house guard force is a dilemma many security managers face. Factors from cost to legal liability must be considered, and each organization has to decide what is best for its particular situation. If a company opts to develop an in-house guard force, a number of factors must be taken into account. This article focuses on the most critical aspects involved in developing an effective and efficiently run in-house guard operation.

One of the most difficult tasks in developing an in-house guard force is recruiting and selecting personnel. To select personnel effectively, accurate and detailed job descriptions must be developed for each position. The personnel officer and security manager should work on this task together. They may also want to develop a list of personal qualities of the ideal guard that can be used in the selection process. When developing this description, equal employment opportunity guidelines need to be taken into account.

After completing job descriptions and an ideal guard description (which should include experience and education requirements if necessary), the next step is to develop a salary scale. Traditionally, guard salaries have been low. However, every attempt should be made to compensate guards adequately in order to instill an adequate degree of company loyalty, reduce turnover, and avoid serious misconduct. Company benefits should be stressed to prospective employees because they can prove to be valuable inducements for guards who want long-term employment.

Before hiring any guard, a security manager should verify that a preemployment background investigation on the individual has been completed. Whenever possible, the background investigation should include a police records check. Hiring a guard with a criminal record, or one who was dismissed by a previous employer for misconduct, not only is embarrassing for a security manager, but also can reduce confidence in the company's security operation.

Guards should be treated in the same manner as other employees and should be made to feel welcome by the organization. For example, if special orientation briefings are given to other employees, guards also should receive them. Including guards in company meetings makes them feel like part of the organization and shows that the company values their service. Guards who feel an organization does not respect their contributions and who are made to feel like second-class citizens are more likely to perform at lower levels and are more likely to quit.

Organizations must realize security guards, while on the low end of the pay scale, can inflict serious losses on an organization through misconduct or dereliction of duty. They frequently have after-hours access to buildings, access to the company's keying systems, knowledge of the organization's security procedures, and access to many corporate secrets - both professional and personal - that could prove costly if released to competitors or the public.

Training an in-house guard force often presents problems, especially for small and medium-sized security departments. One option, if available, is to send guards to a training school. Unfortunately, few formal training schools provide quality training at an affordable cost.

In most cases, security managers must develop their own in-house training programs. While many large security departments have a full-time training coordinator, in most small and medium-sized departments it is not cost-effective to provide formal classroom instruction to one or two guards.

Many companies, instead, resort to in-house, on-the-job training programs, which are often haphazardly developed. Training often consists of no more than assigning a new guard to a more experienced guard for several weeks. High-quality, reasonably priced on-the-job training programs can be developed, but they require effort from the security manager.

To manage an in-house guard force, periodic performance evaluation systems should be developed. In most organizations, a standard evaluation system is used but needs to be modified to reflect an accurate evaluation of a security guard's performance. Hopefully, much of the information needed to develop a professional evaluation will already have been completed during the preparation of job descriptions and the on-the-job training program.

A CRITICAL PART OF ANY GUARD force performance evaluation system is a codified disciplinary system. This system should be explained to all guards and should contain documented reports of any disciplinary problems, misconduct, or poor performance. Guards should be given copies of reports and counseled by a security department supervisor on ways to avoid future problems.

In developing an in-house guard force, equipment is another important consideration. Deciding on the style of uniform (blazers versus police style) as well as the color can require a lot of time and effort.

Police-style uniforms are generally more practical and less expensive than blazer uniforms. Cloth patches with the company name should be affixed to one shoulder of the uniform, and uniform pants with a stripe on each leg generally last longer than those without because pants without stripes can be used by the guard for personal use.

If a hat is to be worn, it should be a good quality baseball-style hat with a cloth security department patch affixed to it. Baseball-type hats are size adjustable. Silk-screened and painted-on emblems tend to wear out more quickly and deteriorate with frequent exposure to the sun or inclement weather.

If equipment belts are to be used (the author recommends them), they should be webbed belts that are adjustable to fit most pant sizes. Although leather equipment belts are more attractive when new, they deteriorate with constant exposure to the sun and inclement weather. Also, they do not come with the wide size adjustability of webbed belts, so a security manager must keep a larger stock on hand.

All security guards should have a flashlight as well as a portable radio to report problems and call for assistance. The use of firearms and nightsticks is debatable. If a security manager thinks such equipment is warranted, guards should receive formal training in the use of this equipment and the legal requirements and liabilities.

One of the most important elements in developing an effective in-house guard force is written standard operating procedures (SOPs). They should be written in clear, simple language and formatted so guards can quickly locate information, and each guard post should be equipped with a copy. For easy reference, SOPs should be organized into categories. The following are some suggested categories:

General orders. General orders are operational guidelines that apply to all guards. They should also contain universal department regulations. Some examples of items that would fall under this category are the proper wearing of uniforms, shift change procedures, procedures for calling in sick or reporting late for work, and guidelines on prohibited behavior.

Guard post orders. Guard post orders are operational guidelines for specific posts. They should contain as many specifics as possible on the procedures guards should follow while staffing a specific post. As many possible contingencies as can be developed - with corresponding guidelines - should be contained in the post orders. A word of advice: When writing post orders for the first time, keep in mind it is impossible to plan for every possible problem or question a guard may be faced with.

When developing a post order for a post that has been operating without written instructions, it is not uncommon to neglect to cover some important points. Points that should have been covered usually come to light when an irate employee or visitor complains about a security procedure. In many cases, the problem in question either was not covered in the guard's post orders or was not covered sufficiently.

A security manager should not get discouraged, however. It can take anywhere from four to six weeks to work out the bugs in a post order, but when it is properly completed, it is worth the effort. The benefits will be evident when the security manager trains new guards or investigates complaints that a guard performed improperly.

Special orders. These orders cover events of a limited duration, such as a large convention in the building, or temporary changes in procedures. Special orders should contain a beginning and ending date and be written clearly. If these orders contradict existing general or post orders, this contradiction should be noted to avoid confusion.

Another element needed for a guard force to function effectively is adequate first-line supervision. This is true for both large and small guard forces. A good first-line supervisor is an invaluable quality control inspector for a security manager. If properly selected, trained, motivated, and groomed, he or she can serve as an excellent on-the-job trainer and morale booster.

Because this individual interacts daily with guards, he or she can keep the security manager informed of the morale of the force, the quality of its performance, and problems due to inadequate training or procedures. If feasible, a 24-hour-a-day guard supervisory post should be included in a company's staffing plan. Each guard post should be inspected by a supervisor at least two times per shift, if possible.

In small guard forces, there may be times when only two guards are on duty at a particular location. In such situations, one guard should be designated as the post supervisor to ensure that someone is assigned ultimate responsibility for the post. The selection of post supervisors for locations with only a few guards can serve as a valuable evaluation mechanism for security managers if they establish the practice of selecting first-line supervisors from post supervisors.

In-house guard force personnel must be motivated to do a good job and rewarded when they do so. One way of recognizing good performance and showing the organization's appreciation is through an awards program. Recognition such as "Guard of the Quarter" awards, where a large photograph of the winner is displayed in a prominent location in the building; certificates of appreciation; and small cash awards, when possible, all contribute to maintaining above-average performance among the guard personnel.

Some doubters belittle the benefits of such inexpensive recognition programs. But just pass by the offices of security and nonsecurity managers, and it is amazing how many individuals prominently display awards and certificates. Public recognition is one of the most valuable motivators.

ANOTHER ELEMENT IN A SUCCESSFUL in-house guard force operation is an effective system for recording and processing administrative and operational information. Operational reports should be easy for the average guard to use and, when possible, should eliminate the need for a guard to prepare long, narrative reports. Incident reports where a guard simply checks the appropriate response are preferable to reports that require long, narrative responses only. At a minimum, the following operational reports are required to manage an in-house guard force effectively:

* Post log. This log should be contained in a bound, ledger notebook and kept at each post. The guard is required to chronologically record all activities that take place at the post.

* Incident report. An incident report is a must for any guard force that hopes to operate effectively. When possible, it should be a preprinted form with questions that a security manager will need answered contained in a forced response format. Incident reports should cover the time of the incident, day, date, and location and contain room for a narrative description. A properly designed form can be used for both criminal and noncriminal incidents.

* Report of hazard. This should be a preprinted report on which a guard can report safety or security hazards observed during the shift for follow-up by the security manager. In terms of life safety issues, an ounce of prevention is always better than the cure.

* Supervisor's daily report. This report should also be preprinted and used by each supervisor to record his or her activities during a tour of duty. The time a supervisor checked a particular post, along with any deficiencies noted during the inspection, should be included in this report.

* Guard disciplinary report. This report should be completed by a guard supervisor whenever formal disciplinary action is required due to misconduct or poor performance by a guard. It becomes a permanent record of such problems and any corrective action taken to prevent a recurrence.

* Guard force property receipt. This receipt is produced each time a guard takes possession of either organizational or lost-and-found property. One copy is turned in for record keeping, the other should be kept by the guard as proof of proper processing of property.

In developing an in-house guard force, one subject that can have an embarassing impact on a security manager's career and operational effectiveness, if overlooked, is emergency planning. An in-house guard force may be receiving rave reviews from the organization's senior management, but this can quickly change if an emergency is badly handled by guards.

An experienced security manager will always develop a set of detailed, written procedures for use by the guard force during emergencies. Procedures should be contained in each set of post orders and cover - at a minimum - fires, bomb threats, and natural disasters that are most likely to occur in that area.

This article has attempted to provide security managers of small or medium-sized security departments with some food for thought when faced with developing an in-house guard program. Hopefully, the suggestions discussed will make the job easier for these managers and help them avoid some of the mistakes possible in managing several diverse guard force operations.

About the Author . . . Gerald L. DeSalvo is a special agent with the Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. He is currently assigned to the US Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador, as deputy chief of security. DeSalvo is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:developing an in-house guard force
Author:DeSalvo, Gerald L.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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