Canadian Security Magazine

A look back: reflecting on the past 40 years of the security industry

Ellen Cools   

News Industry News

Over the past 40 years, the security industry has evolved to an almost unrecognizable point.

Industry veterans indicate that 40 years ago, the industry largely consisted of retired police officers who were focused on physical security and alarms. Cybersecurity did not exist, and security was only called upon in response to a crisis.

But one aspect has remained the same: Canadian Security has been there to guide the industry. Over the years, we have evolved alongside the industry, transitioning from a magazine that included content geared more towards alarm dealers and installers to one dedicated to covering the major events and trends impacting end users and senior security managers.

We asked a number of security professionals to reflect upon the past four decades: Rita Estwick, director of enterprise security development, Canada Post; David Hyde, owner and principal consultant, David Hyde and Associates (recently acquired by Total Cannabis Security Solutions); Steve Summerville, president, Stay Safe Instructional Programs; Elliott Goldstein, senior litigation lawyer, Epstein & Associates; Kevin Murphy, security director, Woodbine Entertainment; and David Steele, country manager, Davantis Technology.

CCTV: a “panacea”


Since the late 1970s, technology has become an increasingly important part of our everyday lives. So it’s no surprise that it has also been extremely influential in the industry’s development.

“When I first started, solutions were more physical and purely perimeter-based,” says Steele, who, during his career has also served as director of sales for ASSA ABLOY and contributed to Canadian Security. “In those days, the technology was not as advanced; it was mainly physical protection on the doors and walls and windows.”

Access control was rudimentary, and there were almost zero CCTV systems, he adds. Despite that, “CCTV has been a huge change in the industry.”

Hyde, who is currently a member of Canadian Security’s editorial advisory board, agrees, although he notes it has its benefits and downsides.

CCTV is often seen as a “panacea,” he explains — a replacement for security guards. But this can create an over-reliance on cameras.  “I think CCTV is a good thing when it’s used in real-time and in parallel with a security person that’s trained, but CCTV can be a bad thing because it actually can give a false sense of security and a false economy of security.”

Goldstein, long-time writer of the column “CCTV and the Law” for Canadian Security, also highlights the impact of the technology.

Looking back over the past 40 years, one trend that stands out for him is the move from analogue to digital, which has changed the evidence-gathering process significantly.

“It’s certainly become more important to prove the chain of custody,” he shares. “You have to show continuous possession because of the ability to tamper with the evidence, to re-touch it and to doctor it …You have to be careful to show that that hasn’t been done, and if it has been done, why?”

A more recent trend is the influx of smartphones and social media, which allow the public to record events that otherwise would not have been recorded.

According to Goldstein, “That caused a huge increase in the volume of video that people had to look at at an event [and] the way surveillance information was handled.”

But CCTV has not only changed the way surveillance is captured, it has also played a vital role in the development of the relationship between police and security.

“I think the police have come to realize that they do need the security people in terms of providing [surveillance] evidence,” he shares.

In turn, the police have created liaisons and relationships with security.

Additionally, security professionals are increasingly called as witnesses in court. According to Summerville, an expert witness and retired sergeant in the Toronto Police Service, the relationship between police and security has “evolved favourably.”

“I’m seeing now that security has a very active role, often, in the safety of the public,” he elaborates. “Policing are strapped in terms of the resources they can provide, and as a result, they are perhaps working in better relationships with security providers.”

Creating “security stewardship”

Technology is not the only reason why security has adopted a more prominent role in society. Increased education has also been key.

Murphy, who just celebrated his 43rd anniversary at Woodbine Entertainment, says, when he started, “There weren’t a lot of opportunities for training. We’d join an industry association and go for a chicken dinner once a month and meet our peers and listen to a presentation by somebody, and that was our in-service education.”

Today, college programs in security and criminal justice university degrees are more commonplace.

Additionally, “on a day-to-day basis, we have access to so many different ways to learn that don’t require us to leave our office, like webinars,” Murphy shares. “And that just gives us access to so much more information.”

Estwick agrees, adding that education and security awareness are “absolutely critical components to any type of security program.

“Any time I think there’s an opportunity to speak to … an employee, a stakeholder, an executive, about security … you have the chance, in my opinion, to create security stewardship.”  

“Education is the key,” adds Summerville, “and it’s not only education of the guards, it’s education of the public, it’s education of the clients, it’s education of the community as a whole.”

So it’s not just security professionals who are better educated and aware. The public also has a better understanding of security’s importance and the role security — particularly security guards — plays in their lives.

Legislation: a driver of change

Legislative changes regarding training requirements played a key role in this transition.

“There literally was no physical training in the 80s and 90s,” Summerville explains. “At the time, there wasn’t even a mandatory requirement for security to be licensed.”

This changed with Patrick Shand’s death in 1999, when he was apprehended outside a Loblaws store by security guards and subsequently died in the arrest, Summerville explains.

The Patrick Shand Inquest in 2004 provided a number of recommendations, leading the government to revise the Security Guard Act, making it mandatory for security guards to be licensed and receive mandatory training.

The Inquest also increased public awareness about the consequences of untrained personnel and staff, Summerville says. Additionally, “it’s made us very, very mindful of our requirement to display due diligence, the duty of care for all people.”

Changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2010 led to further requirements for workplace safety training.

“At that time, what was legislated was a requirement to provide a safe environment not only for employees, but for staff to be able to summon assistance if exposed perceptionally to a risk in the workplace,” Summerville explains.

The Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) released a security risk book that identified a “procurement process with security to provide a safe avenue in the workplace,” he shares. “What that involved was a very detailed curriculum of training to identify what security would require … to be able to exercise appropriate judgement.”

PSHSA also outlined the need to vet training programs in order to increase public trust.

“It became an industry de facto standard, if you will, with respect to use of force training, the issue of intermediate weapons [and], most importantly, a fully-identified curriculum on how to de-escalate adversity.”

A paradigm shift: 9/11

But if there’s one event that has really influenced the industry in the past 40 years, it’s 9/11.

“9/11 was the biggest paradigm shift for quite a lot of aspects of security,” Hyde says. “That was really the time the threat of terrorism globalized and we started looking at it more closely, what linkages there were that came into Canada.”

It was also a major change in large building security and public safety, he says.

Murphy agrees, noting that 9/11 resulted in greater attention and funding for hardening facilities against terrorism and other breaches. For Murphy himself, with Woodbine Racetrack located next to Toronto-Pearson International Airport, his team had to determine how to respond in case a similar event happened, and the potential impact on the business.

In response, Woodbine engaged in a review of their emergency management program and performed a risk assessment to determine how to mitigate the consequences, he says.

But distribution channel security was arguably impacted heavily by 9/11. For Estwick, in her role at Canada Post, it was the “first major disruptor.”

“It was not only the immediate impacts in terms of grounding airlines, but the after-affects that transpired, certainly in the United States, and the introduction to what I call the ‘Canadian consumer mainstream dialogue’ of threats. Terrorism became a very popular term,” she elaborates.

These threats could and would be transmitted through that distribution network, she adds. In Estwick’s opinion, the impact of 9/11 “speaks to the recognition of the intensification of the threat environment [over the years].

“I really do believe that that was the initial journey of this industry towards the adaptability and resiliency that’s been acquired. This is where industry leaders started to really look through those different lenses and the importance of health and safety, the importance of being visible, the importance of business continuity, crisis management, and all of those interconnections that needed to take place.”


Consequently, in combination with increased education, training and new technology, 9/11 was a galvanizing moment toward professionalization.

Thirty to 40 years ago, security leaders were not focused on items such as a company’s reputational brand, business risks, “the intensification of the threat environment and the requirement to build security capabilities to mitigate those vulnerabilities and risks,” Estwick says.

Instead, they approached risk from a singular lens. Now “we’re starting to talk about security knowledge and management; it’s the leadership, the resilience,” she says. “These are the terms that we are using today as it relates to the protection of not only various enterprises but the Canadian economy as a whole. And I don’t think 40 years ago we were that global in our approach and certainly in our messaging.”

From the installer perspective, Steele says the end users are more professional.

“In the beginning, a lot of the end users were ex-policemen who didn’t really know anything about security, whereas now they’re more educated,” he explains.

The installer has to “treat them with respect and you have to be as professional as they are. Whereas in the past I don’t think you had to be; it was more of a friendly relationship.”

Additionally, the end users’ demands have changed: “It’s not just about protecting the building, it’s managing the assets and the assets include the people, so you’re managing the people for them as well,” Steele says.

This professionalization also means “people are starting to look at security as a job, as a career, and not just simply as security guards or people who are selling cars one day and computers or surveillance equipment the next,” Goldstein says.

For Goldstein, this change is not thanks to legislation or technology, but industry associations such as CANASA and ASIS. They were the first to begin professionalizing and offering certifications, he explains.

A seat at the table

As the industry has professionalized, “The ability to demonstrate the value of security in a business world has changed,” explains Hyde. “I think we’ve got better at speaking the language of business.”

Now, positions such as CSO and security director, which didn’t exist in the 1970s, are increasingly common, and the professionals who fill those positions often come from a security background. “Forty years ago, I think it was assumed that you had to be retired from a police service to get a job as a security manager or a security consultant…and that is not necessarily the case anymore,” Murphy shares.

“One of the benefits of having a retired police officer on board was that he brought his Rolodex with him and all his contacts, and that may have been the most valuable contribution he made,” he adds. “The view of static security guards in place letting people through doors wasn’t looked upon as anything that was terribly important.”

But now security is finding a seat at the C-Suite table.  “Now we’ve been engaged in collaborating with the other aspects of our business to ensure their success and to ensure that we’re mitigating any risks to their business that they haven’t thought of,” Murphy explains.

Estwick agrees, adding that 40 years ago, “we were called upon when there was a crisis, when there was a security event, but not necessarily factored into the overall strategy of the organization.”

Part of the reason why security now has more influence on the C-Suite is the “recognition that we as security people, we don’t own the risk. The company owns the risk.”

In fact, Estwick believes following an Enterprise Security Risk Management (ESRM) approach to risk management is “the way of the future, in terms of how we, from an industry perspective, are going to continue to influence our C-suite.”

A long road ahead

However, there are still areas for improvement within the industry. “I still think that security as a professional occupation really is not given its due,” Hyde argues. “I think that we haven’t been able to professionalize across the ranks…and that’s a shame, I think we’ve really missed that opportunity.”

Likewise, when it comes to training and certification, Hyde believes the mandatory training and licensing requirements are not enough.

“I think we’ve seen lots of changes in security’s role and the level of involvement and interactions with the public…but we haven’t seen really any meaningful change in training…in accountability, in standards,” he explains.

Consequently, Hyde argues security leaders need to take steps to require more training and standardization, rather than waiting on the government.

Estwick agrees, noting that although industry associations such as ASIS started the industry on the path to professionalization through globally recognized accreditation, “we don’t have the benefit or the privilege of being recognized as a professional career. I think we’ve still got a long road ahead of us — it’s going to take a village to achieve this success — but I think that’s the natural next step for this industry to move into.”

In a similar vein, she believes the industry will advance with regards to technology. “I believe innovation and disruptive technologies are going to continue to displace what we know today, and they’re going to displace consumer behaviours, so I believe from an industry perspective, what we are likely going to see…is a convergence — what I call a convergence of capabilities,” she explains. “Technologists, cyber expertise, compliance experts, privacy experts, business community, intelligence all co-interacting together.”

Ultimately, the outlook for the industry is variable. No one can predict exactly where it will go. As Hyde remarks, “it depends what coloured glasses I’m wearing — the rose coloured ones or not.”

With his rose-coloured glasses on, he sees a future “where security is a more respected vocation, where the wages and the conditions of frontline security is seen more in the role of a professional vocation…there’s a lot of room to grow.”

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Canadian Security.

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