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Filling the void in security management

Imagine you are a contract security guard working at a large shopping centre in Ontario. A report comes into the security office that a physical altercation is occurring, and you rush to the scene with several fellow guards and your security manager.


September 30, 2011
By Canadian Security

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Upon arrival, you discover that a young male has assaulted an elderly male and is now fleeing on foot towards the exit. Your manager orders you to apprehend the suspect through any means necessary — an order that clearly violates your legal authority and responsibility as a security guard.

This scenario illustrates an unfortunate reality for the private security industry — a situation in which a security manager could theoretically have less training or knowledge than the staff under his/her supervision. While all Canadian provinces require frontline staff to be licensed (for most security functions), and most provinces require mandatory training, security managers are largely exempt from these regulations. In fact, British Columbia is the only province that requires a security manager to complete basic security training.

Dr. Mark Button, reader and director of the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies at Portsmouth University, elaborates on this “security management gap” and its potentially detrimental impact on the industry in a recent article published in the Security Journal. Reflecting on the deficiencies of the United Kingdom’s Private Security Industry Act (PSIA) 2001, Button states that “security managers… have been largely excluded from licensing and/or the competency-raising framework of the legislation. This is a major gap and impediment to raising the overall standards of the industry, as well as an omission in creating a truly accountable private security industry.” Furthermore, he notes that by failing to extend minimum standards to management, the perceived value of training and education is effectively diminished.

Both Canada and the United Kingdom have focused regulatory reforms on frontline staff, hoping that change will trickle up the chain of command. As Button asserts, this “bottom-up” transformation is a peculiar strategy for an industry that suffers from immense labour turnover. However, many senior managers and executives may be reluctant to embrace proposals seeking to impose minimum standards on their peers. This reluctance may partly reflect the fact that many security managers come from a police or military background and have previous security training. Even so, provinces could legislate that all security managers must complete security management training, pass an examination and obtain a security “manager class” licence before performing their duties. Security managers who can demonstrate the completion of equivalent training could be exempt from mandatory training, the exam, or both.

In his article, “The Private Security Industry Act 2001 and the security management gap in the United Kingdom,” Mark Button proposes a model for effectively regulating security managers. Essentially, basic security management training should be mandatory, thus providing a foundation for additional, voluntary training. Moreover, Button argues that the importance of credentials and status among security professionals provides an opportunity to create additional managerial licences with more comprehensive training and education. Obtaining these advanced licences would secure higher status for security managers. Furthermore, Button proposes that specialist licences could also be created for various security functions and industries.    
How would a proposal seeking to establish a hierarchy of managerial standards work in the Canadian context?

First, provinces could implement minimum training standards based on the International Foundation for Protection Officers’ (IFPO) Security Supervision and Management Program (SSMP). The SSMP is a distance learning course that takes 80 hours or about four to six months to complete. Individuals study different modules from the textbook “Security Supervision: Theory and Practice of Asset Protection,” published by Butterworth-Heinemann, and must pass an unsupervised midterm exam and a final proctored exam, achieving at least a 70 per cent grade on both.

Upon completion of the SSMP, individuals with at least six months of security management experience can be admitted to the Certified in Security Supervision and Management (CSSM) certification program, in which applicants are expected to submit 10 essays based on real-life security management scenarios. The CSSM program is an effective model for a voluntary, advanced managerial certification and/or possible provincial licence. Collectively, the SSMP and CSSM programs constitute a progressive and hierarchal set of managerial standards that should be embraced by provinces and the industry alike.

Currently, managerial standards have been tailored to the most experienced professionals (e.g., ASIS International’s Certified Protection Professional certification). Meanwhile, academic institutions in Canada — with the exception of the University of Calgary — have been slow to develop legitimate security management programs. I strongly urge provinces to consider legislating minimum standards for security managers, and I urge the industry to embrace additional voluntary programs that could help fill the void in security management standards.  

Special thanks to Glen Kitteringham, Mark Button and Grant Lecky for their research assistance.  

Fraser McGuire is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He has a Master’s degree in Criminology from the University of Toronto.


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