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Public vs. private security: what's the difference?


DURING 23 YEARS IN THE security industry I have observed attitudes and actions of professional security practitioners that I find disturbing. I think those attitudes and actions directly influence people who are considering the asset protection/security field as a career choice.

The asset protection/security field is a specialized profession requiring specific knowledge, skills, and abilities. The Certified Protection Professional (CPP) designation indicates a level of accomplishment in the security industry. It can help an individual obtain employment with excellent long-term potential and also gain the professional respect necessary to promote the viability of the security field in corporate America.

As a security management consultant I talk with many CEOs, COOs, and security directors in a broad spectrum of business organizations. Most executives generally equate law enforcement with security. The majority of them view security as a lesser, included duty of law enforcement and affiliations more relevant to security positions than ASIS membership.

Many security directors and managers are former civilian law enforcement officials - retired police chiefs, chiefs of detectives, or FBI, Treasury Department, or Secret Service agents - who believe that asset protection/security is just another duty of law enforcement and are satisfied that their past experiences fully qualify them as security experts. Some former law enforcement officials think a security manager job will be easy after retiring from the force.

I have a high regard for security professionals and see a distinct difference between law enforcement and security, which requires specific knowledge and expertise. ASIS needs to work harder to educate the business community about the differences. Security directors and managers compound the situation by failing to educate their bosses about the differences, instead accepting the status quo.

In my opinion, most security directors or managers who are former law enforcement officials rarely possess the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to successfully execute the responsibilities of their position. Since law enforcement is the investigation and apprehension phase of public security, law enforcement personnel logically receive little, if any, training in the denial and prevention phase of public security, which encompasses the asset protection field.

Corporate executives are understandably vague on the actual qualifications and performance standards needed for security directors and managers. Unfortunately, most business executives believe an individual's training and experience in a law enforcement position fully qualify him or her for a position as security director, loss prevention manager, or security trainer, and the CCP designation becomes less important.

I believe that thinking reflects an inability on the part of ASIS and its professional security practitioner members to educate the business community effectively. Security professionals and organizations like ASIS should publish articles in various trade journals about the differences between law enforcement and security and the meaning of the CPP designation, and promote the CPP program at meeting outside ASIS.

Security Management features many articles emphasizing the necessity for educating corporate America on the special skills, knowledge, and abilities needed for the security profession. Unfortunately, Security Management is where it all stops.

If corporate executives are not educated about the differences between law enforcement and security and the importance and meaning of the CPP designation, security will never gain a position equal to that of law enforcement and will always be considered another duty of law enforcement, and the CPP designation will have no significance. An individual with a law enforcement background and the appropriate police affiliations will always be considered more qualified for security positions than an individual who is strictly a security professional with no law enforcement background or affiliations.

The security field is challenging and critical. Security professionals need to be recognized as professionals in their own right, not as secondary to law enforcement personnel. The meaning and importance of being a professional security practitioner are completely negated when corporate executives believe law enforcement training and police duties are all that is necessary to be fully qualified for asset protection positions.

ASIS must change this perception if the field is to survive as a separate entity. Security professionals must also become involved with vocational schools and colleges that present security courses. The majority of instructors at technical schools are former or current law enforcement personnel who are perpetuating the myth that security is a subsection of law enforcement. This attitude is devastating to the industry and will continue unless security professionals become involved in educating individuals interested in a career in asset protection/security.

In workshops and articles in Security Management, ASIS continually stresses the differences between law enforcement and security and the need for professional security practitioners. But what is said at meetings and published in magazines for other security professionals is not necessarily how the rest of the world views asset protection/security.

ASIS, its chapters, and individual members should take responsibility for establishing programs to educate executives on the differences between law enforcement and security and begin showing more concern for seminars and workshops. If the situation continues as it is, security will continue to be viewed as a secondary law enforcement field by corporate executives. True security professionals will never receive the credit due for their expertise, and security will never be recognized as a worthwhile profession.

Many people may disagree with me, but the security industry has not identified itself as being separate and distinct from law enforcement, and too many security impostors permeate the allegedly professional security practitioner ranks. This must change.
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.

Article Details
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Author:Hilliard, Timothy M.
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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