Shattering the myth of corporate security

Jennifer Brown
Friday February 16, 2007
Written by
Jamie Hillis and his team of Security Area Managers have made it known they aren’t huddled in an office spying on everyone. Instead, they have taught employees at the City of Mississauga to be the eyes and ears of their facilities and it’s paying off in a more engaged workforce.
Mississauga, Ont. is probably best known for its outspoken and long-time mayor, Hazel McCallion. But the bedroom community that merges with its hulking neighour Toronto via Hwy 401 has grown rapidly in the last decade to become the sixth largest city in Canada. It is home to affluent neighbourhoods and high-tech companies such as Microsoft Canada and Hewlett-Packard which have chosen it as the location for their Canadian headquarters. Its population is more than 700,000, and today, Mississauga has some big city problems, including the over-crowded transit system and clashes between ethnic groups that sometimes flow over into city community centres, creating challenges for Jamie Hillis, manager of security and operations, and his team of security area managers, or SAMs.

Hillis came to the city nine years ago as operations manager, after working at Intercon for a number of years and serving as director of security at facilities in Toronto including the North American Life Centre; College Park complex and Toronto Dominion Centre. He then left for Chicago and became director of security at the Illinois Centre.  He was then looking to come back to Canada and returned to Toronto as operations manager for the CBC at its Broadcast Centre and later operations manager at Woodbine Racetrack. It was then he was offered the position of operations manager at the City of Mississauga for the Living Arts Centre, Civic Centre and Central Library.

He had a solid security background, but Hillis wanted to make the jump to facility management. He arrived at Mississauga when the Living Arts Centre opened in 1997 and while he came as operations manager, because of his background they asked him to take on security as well.

Transit challenges
Rapid growth in a city like Mississauga puts pressure on services in many ways and some more than others, such as transit. The terminals that serve buses in the city are handling more people than when first planned for by the city. In particular, the City Centre Transit Terminal on Rathburn Road, which wasn’t built to handle the more than 100,000 people that flow through it every day. It’s a gathering point for everyone coming to the Square One shopping complex as well as those who perhaps don’t have a particular destination.

“We’re getting more and more involved with transit and we want it to be a proactive approach, not reactive,” says Cathie Evans, security area manager for the central area of Mississauga.

Hillis is hoping that, by the end of February, the mayor and council will approve additional funding for transit security that will mean additional cameras on buses and increased security staff.

The security systems for the city run on the backbone of the city’s IT infrastructure. The systems are monitored, controlled and programmed from one administrative location — City Hall — which serves as the electronic hub and location of the control room. The 24-hour control room staff monitor CCTV systems that feed in from city facilities — 300 cameras monitoring 34 facilities. One third of those are Pelco PTZs. All cameras are recorded on an Integral video recording system, with units distributed throughout via the city’s IT network. (There are 99 facilities with DSC intrusion systems and 56 facilities on an access control system.)

“All access control and CCTV systems are networked back to our security operations centre, where, along with our intrusion systems, they are monitored and responded to by City staff 24/7,” says Stan Pocock, security area manager responsible for the electronic security systems.

All three systems are integrated, programmed and controlled from one central administration location. Frisco Bay currently holds the contract with the City for all system requirements.

The impressive camera and access control systems at the city help the security team do their job, but in his time at the city, Hilllis says the most successful strategy has been to break down the barriers of communication between departments within the municipal structure and get employees outside the security department to learn to become the eyes and ears of the city and its facilities. There were 6,925 security occurrence reports last year.

“We’re about being proactive, not responsive. We feel we’ve evolved past responsive into awareness and stopping things before they occur,” Hillis says.

While he has a budget of $2 million annually and a sophisticated CCTV system that is used regularly to assist Peel Region Police, Hillis says his greatest resource his department has is the greater awareness and communication with staff on a regular basis.

In 2003 the corporate security team, under Hillis, created a strategic plan. The focus was placed on the city’s number one asset — it’s employees.

“The idea was always to try and make our organizational structure as flat as possible, so the only way to do that is to empower people and give them full responsibility,” says Hillis.

In his experience in the industry, Hillis says security is often viewed as separate and there is often suspicion about what security does. “It’s always ”˜Who are they spying on?’ It’s seen as an internal audit function,” says Hillis. “And I have certainly experienced that; in some places I’ve worked, people have thought we had cameras that followed them everywhere — there was a kind of paranoia that was rampant. We don’t have any of that here and I think it’s because of our collaborative approach. I think we have shattered that old paradigm. Once you include people in their own security and the security of their co-workers, it benefits everyone.”
This has been accomplished, says Hillis, through awareness programs and proactive measures such as non-violent crisis intervention training.

With a history of suspicion around security, there’s one issue Hillis really feels strongly about standing his ground on and that is not providing video surveillance footage of employees to human resources unless it is part of a planned investigation.

“If they are stealing time, no we don’t; anything to do with time or labour — nothing like that. It has to be done officially as part of an investigation. 


-2 #1 MISSISSAUGAWATCH 2008-07-31 19:27
As part of my research into the conduct and operations of Mississauga Corporate Security, I took major points in this article and filed Freedom of Information on them. FOI revealed that the 2003 "Strategic Plan" referred to in this article was so poorly written that the Corporation of the City of Mississauga refused to release it. I had to appeal to the Privacy Commissioner. When I finally did get a copy, I understood why Mississauga didn't want the dawg released.

As for iMississauga's 300+ surveillance cameras, FOI revealed provincial privacy guidelines were routinely ignored as well!

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