Canadian Security Magazine

Five steps to professionalizing an industry: Hybrid model transforms private security in the United Arab Emirates

By Canadian Security   

Features Opinion

For those who want to gain a true understanding of security operations in the Middle East, Arabs and their communities, I would suggest seeking out a cross cultural experience as this can provide a better understanding of religious, social and political issues.

In October 2010, the primary purpose of my visit was to complete my academic assignment, the Professional Field Practice project as part of my Master of Arts degree in Human Security and Peacebuilding at Royal Roads University in Victoria, Canada. Through my personal contacts, I was invited by my sponsor organization, the National Security Institute (NSI), located in Abu Dhabi. Over the next four months, I would analyze the transformation of the private security industry by evaluating the relationship between the private security industry and stakeholders and assess their satisfaction with the regulatory authority and NSI.

For purposes of this article, I have shaped this ‘Process of Professionalization’ into Five Steps: Protect, Partner, Promote, Prepare and Professionalize. These five steps highlight the government’s success in Establishing and Enforcing private security excellence in the UAE.

1. Protect the overall public security interests of clients and community

There were issues surrounding unprofessional private security companies using employees who were largely unskilled and uneducated. In the absence of regulation and standardized training, private security companies enjoyed unrestricted access and liberty to draft unfair policies, create sub-standard training programs, overwork and deprive employees of deserved wages and in some cases commit atrocities on this vulnerable populace. These practices carried on covertly and in many cases overtly with the primary objective being the expansion and monopoly of business. Undoubtedly there were numerous blatant violations of security guard’s human rights, labour rights and duties, minimum wages and well deserved benefits. All too often protecting the overall public security interests of clients and community was sidelined. The government recognized the need to step in to establish strong regulations, to gain firm control and to introduce standardized training.


2. Partner with law enforcement, clients and stakeholders

In 2001, Government officials in Abu Dhabi entered into a partnership with the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) in Canada as a resource for transforming its security industry. The Abu Dhabi government highlighted three main goals for the Canadian experts:

•    To enhance public safety
•    To enhance the role of the public police, by using the private security industry and
•    To exercise measures of consumer protection and business transparency

The focus of the transformation was to improve public safety by professionalizing the security industry to establish a solid foundation for the industry through an authority that would be financially self-sufficient.

The Canadian Experts who were referred to as the Security Authority took a consultative approach with other stakeholders including the Immigration and Labour Ministries as well as sections of the Abu Dhabi Police’s Criminal Records and Fingerprinting departments. The government moved to create the regulatory authority currently known as the Private Security Business Department (PSBD). An arm of the Abu Dhabi Police, the PSBD is the primary body responsible for establishing the framework for regulations and training. PSBD has 25 police personnel and 15 female administrative staff, an overwhelming majority of whom are UAE citizens.

3. Promote Private Security through regulation and training

The Security Authority promoted the concept that security guards could take over the lower priority functions of the public police. In some cases, a partnership could be created whereby private security worked alongside the police.

This approach is seen as being unique as it was the UAE government that decided to regulate this industry with a vision that both public and private security are high priorities. The government did not seek consensus from industry and was convinced that controlling the industry through regulation alone would not be sufficient. The UAE government authorized a security training standard for all. Today, both regulation and training are in sync with each other.
After comprehensive research on regulatory models and training materials based on best practices, categories identified for regulation and government mandated security training are:
•    Security Guarding
•    Armoured Car Services
•    Technical Security and
•    Security Consultancy

The immediate priorities for project implementation were Security Guarding and Armoured Car Services.

4. Prepare a hybrid model

What differentiated the Canadian contribution was their expertise in both private and public security regulations and training and their willingness to integrate this expertise with the Middle East culture. Successfully, a hybrid model of Western private security service delivery was merged into a Non-Western society.

In keeping with cultural sensitivity, most of the training materials had to be rewritten and translated. After all the necessary homework and modifications, the Regulatory Authority (PSBD) moved towards the implementation phase starting with the capital, Abu Dhabi.

5. Professionalize quality of service

The regulations and training were designed to weed out individuals and companies whose primary focus was profiteering and providing compromised service to corporate and individual clients. Stringent measures were adopted to overhaul the image of the industry. For example, the Security Authority initiated a due diligence model of criminal record and fingerprinting checks for all security personnel.

In October 2006, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, President of the UAE, signed Federal Law No. 37 for Private Security making the Abu Dhabi private security model law for the whole of the UAE. Today, six of the seven emirates, excluding Dubai, follow this model.


Research clarified that changes to the industry were necessary. The UAE undertook to facilitate a transformation through regulation, training enforcing standards of excellence. Today, the private security industry in the UAE is a first class Hybrid model for the security industry which is being considered for implementation by neighbouring Arab Gulf States as well as other Middle East States.

Vikram Kulkarni is currently in the Private Security Industry and resides in Western Canada.

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