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Where professionalism begins.

THE LACK OF TRAINING AND Expertise among line security officers is a subject that continues to be ignored. This neglect is prevalent in contract as well as proprietary operations.

How can we expect an individual to talk, work, act, and be perceived as a professional unless he or she is trained as one? As prudent business managers and security professionals, we must take the responsibility to train our personnel.

Management must be taught that effective security and loss prevention takes more than putting a $4-an-hour security officer at the warehouse door. Managers need to understand that if a security officer is a necessary part of an overall loss prevention plan, he or she must receive adequate training.

We would not consider sending a cashier to operate a cash register without first providing proper training. So why would we consider assigning a security officer to guard an entire store without providing the required training?

Training must be addressed as a business issue. Management must be convinced that training will provide an effective return on investment, which will pay dividends in the long run.

The majority of security officers in the field today are required to use technical equipment to perform vital functions. These include CCTVs, card access systems, video systems, and computer-controlled security and fire alarm panels. Improper use of this equipment may result in compromising the security systems, increased losses, and increased liability for the organization.

The security officer is the first line of defense in an effective loss prevention program. Officers should understand this and be oriented to a broader interpretation of their job responsibilities.

I refuse to accept the "guard" terminology and prefer to designate personnel as "loss prevention officers" instead of "security officers." This new designation elevates the status of the officers in the organization and also elevates their responsibilities. Officers should possess a basic understanding of the term "loss prevention," and this should be expanded with a written job description.

The term "loss prevention" expands the scope of security to safeguarding the entire company, including personnel, property, and assets. Consequently, the responsibilities of loss prevention officers are expanded to include fire prevention, hazard recognition, access control, emergency planning, and risk assessment.

Once the job description is established, the officer should receive a detailed job specification that outlines specific duties and responsibilities. In the development of these responsibilities, the manager must recognize that to accomplish each responsibility an officer must also be given the authority to complete the task.

The job description and job specification provide the framework for developing an effective training program. Newly hired individuals want to perform satisfactorily and succeed. But first they must understand what is expected of them, and then they need to be given the necessary tools and positive reinforcement.

After an officer has been oriented to his or her duties and responsibilities, a general training program should begin. This program should consist of a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction, followed by at least 16 hours of on-site instruction by a senior officer.

A minimum of 40 hours of training should be completed before an officer assumes his or her post. Training should be documented and reviewed daily by a designated training officer, who will verify the competence of the officer before he or she assumes a post.

Instructors should be trained individuals who have worked in the loss prevention field and understand the goals of an effective program. Instructors need to be genuinely interested in performing their function and have as their goal the success of the officers they train.

Officers tasked with training should also have a background in teaching or have received instruction in proper training techniques, such as a "train the trainer" program.

Officer instruction should include written materials that can be reviewed and kept as references, video and visual aids, group participation, and review and testing to ensure that the material is understood.

Course content may vary slightly based on the environment officers will work in. For example, problems encountered in a hotel are different from those in a manufacturing facility. But the objectives of the security department will not change. What will vary is how officers assess and react to the risks in those environments.

All officers must possess some fundamental knowledge and skills to perform their duties properly. Among the topics they must know about are applicable laws and regulations, interpersonal relations, first aid, basic report writing, fire protection, and relations with local authorities.

Once basic training is completed and the instructor is confident that the officers are prepared to acquire the specific job skills for their assignment, the instructor can begin the second phase of training, on-site training.

On-site training should be conducted by a competent, experienced senior officer. The new officers should be supplied with written material regarding specific operations and be allowed to observe other officers performing their duties and question those officers' actions.

The officers should then begin hands-on training by functioning in their capacity under the guidance of the training officer. Again, there should be daily review and feedback regarding the trainees' performance with the training officer.

Trainee competence should be tested, with qualification verification prior to assuming a post. This should be done with the help of a training checklist and verbal and written exams.

If the training officer is not satisfied the officers are prepared for their post, then deficient areas should be identified and additional training scheduled until the training officer is sure the skills are mastered.

After an officer is assigned, his or her performance should be closely monitored, and any performance deficiencies should be corrected immediately.

Mandatory, ongoing training should be conducted on a routine basis, preferably monthly, so officers do not stagnate or become complacent. An ongoing training program will also reassure the officers of the company's commitment to the department's performance and will instill additional confidence in the officers.

This training further opens the lines of communication between line and staff functions, especially if conducted in a participative forum. Additional reinforcement for excellence in officer performance can be given by recognizing officers in articles in company news-letters or by giving monthly, quarterly, or annual awards.

Additional training should be required if officers are required to carry weapons. Legal issues, such as liability, must be discussed thoroughly so that officers understand the consequences of carrying and using a weapon.

Weapons knowledge and safe handling practices must be taught by a qualified instructor. Hands-on range practice and competency qualifying must be completed and documented. Also, a minimum of quarterly requalification should be completed. Any incidents relating to the mishandling of firearms must be investigated, and corrective action should be taken immediately to correct deficiencies.

The responsibility for upgrading security officer training lies with the security manager. Unfortunately, too often security managers are like other business managers - quick to take credit for the actions of subordinates when they perform admirably and quick to point the finger toward someone else when the system fails.

If we believe we can elevate our positions as true professionals, we must begin now to elevate the standards of our subordinates. Through dedication to proper training, that can be accomplished.

Mark E. Westbrook, CPP, is manager of security, safety, and loss prevention at Federal-Mogul Corporation in Detroit, MI. He is a member of the ASIS Standing Committee on Investigations.
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:Special Seminar Issue; professionalization of security personnel
Author:Westbrook, Mark E.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Words:1220
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