Relationship between public police and private security is improving
By Glen KitteringhamFeatures Opinion
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
- 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
- Stage 5 is where there is an active partnership where law
enforcement realizes that private security has a significant role in
- 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
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
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
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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