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Relationship between public police and private security is improving

December 21, 2009 Written by  Glen Kitteringham
In Mark Button’s latest book "Doing Security: Critical Reflections and an Agenda for Change," he writes about the six stages of relations between law enforcement and security that was first identified by Professor Philip Stenning in 1989.
  • Stage 1 is Denial in which police officers refuse to acknowledge that private security officers are a legitimate topic of discussion.
  • Stage 2 is Grudging Recognition. The relationship moves to where the police recognize the role of security but that role is diminished  and denigrated.
  • Stage 3 is Competition and open hostility. In this stage there is competition and open hostility where the growth of security poses a threat to the police agency’s supposed monopoly but at the same time is recognized as a source of employment in retirement and providing policing services under stretched budgets.
  • Stage 4 is where calls for greater control of the industry are introduced. It is viewed as a necessary evil or legitimate component of policing.
  • Stage 5 is where there is an active partnership where law enforcement realizes that private security has a significant role in policing.
  • Stage 6 Finally, there is an equal partnership between the two groups.

At the time of the research in 1989, Stenning felt that an equal partnership was only theoretical in nature.  It is interesting in my 20 years of working in the security industry that I have gone through all six stages in my interactions with law enforcement and even today, I continue to see these stages at play.

My experiences range from dealing with street constables right through to chiefs of police where with each group I have experienced the full range. For example, in 2002 I attended an international conference on policing and security in Montreal. One evening, I happened to be having a beer with two of the most senior members of the Quebec Police Association who I must say treated me with a great deal of respect and openly acknowledged that security has a strong role to play in Canadian society. Later, members of another police association walked into the bar and when they found out I was on the security side of things they became openly hostile.

One told me flat out that there was absolutely no role for private security in Canada, period.  I tried to engage him in conversation but he simply refused to look at me let alone answer my questions.

Fortunately, that extreme attitude is relative rare. On the other end of the spectrum, I have had many positive experiences with police from Calgary, Edmonton and the RCMP.

I co-instruct the Certified Protection Professional program in Calgary. This year, one of my fellow instructors is a member of the RCMP who, after taking the course the year before, obtained his CPP designation.

The CPP designation is a recognized security management program recognized world-wide in eight areas including physical security, security principles and practices, personnel security, business management, crisis management, investigations, law, and computer security.  In particular, the RCMP has embraced the role that the security industry can provide from a critical infrastructure protection perspective.

At a national level they are identifying and reaching out to private sector partners in various critical infrastructure areas.  They are asking for our opinions, sharing information, creating training programs and I believe actively working with us.

The fact of the matter is that there are too many commonalities to be ignored by either group.  Many security personnel working in loss prevention departments, shopping malls, hospitals and high-rise buildings, just to name a few, are actively recruited by police agencies.

There are industry associations where members from both groups sit on committees and boards together and attend the same training that is often provided jointly by police and security personnel.  Many police move into security whether they have gone the full 25 years or just a few.

Security organizations have policing committees and police organizations have security committees. There are still a few police  officers out there who turn their nose up at security people but thankfully they are shrinking in numbers. The growth of the security industry has been stunning in the last few decades and it will continue to grow. We as an industry are not going to go away and the intelligent law enforcement members know it.

Glen Kitteringham, M.Sc., CPP, F.SyI. is Director, Security and Life Safety with Brookfield Properties in Calgary, Alta.

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