The British path to professionalization
By Fraser McGuireFeatures Opinion
In 1996, Clifford E. Simonsen and Giovanni Manunta famously disputed the idea of security management as a profession — with the former effectively defining the minimum standards for any profession. Fifteen years later, however, the notion of “security as a profession” continues to be one of the most contentious debates within the industry.
Recently, the United Kingdom has taken a decisive step forward in the path to professionalization with a new initiative: The Register of Chartered Security Professionals (RCSP).
Working in partnership with the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals, the Security Institute — one of the largest security organizations in the U.K. — has developed the RCSP. According to the Security Institute, the main goal of the RCSP is “enhanced credibility” and recognition as a “true security professional” similar to other chartered professions like accountants and engineers. However, unlike these other professions, the RCSP is geared towards applicants at the senior and operational levels of the security industry. As such, there are two routes for applying: 1) the Standard Path and 2) the Individuals Path.
The Standard Path requires at least five years of operational security experience with at least two years at the Chartered competence level and a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in a security-related discipline, or a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in any discipline plus a vocational qualification such as the Security Institute’s Diploma in Security Management or the ASIS Certified Protection Professional (CPP). Alternatively, applicants pursuing the Individual Path must have at least 10 years operational experience with at least five years at the Chartered competence level and must write a 4,000 to 5,000 word portfolio outlining how he or she has met the competency requirements.
Upon admission to the RCSP, the registrant will be known as a “Chartered Security Professional” and is required to engage in the Security Institute’s annual, continuing professional development scheme. Additionally, Chartered Security Professionals would abide by a defined code of conduct, have indemnity insurance and pay a £300 joining fee and a £72 annual fee.
The RCSP is currently in a pilot phase. I would like to acknowledge this impressive accomplishment by the Security Institute. However, there may be some unintended consequences.
By focusing efforts to professionalize at senior levels, the security industry could be effectively polarized. If senior security staff and managers are regarded as “professional” by virtue of their certifications and experience, then are lower levels to be regarded as non-professional? Other professions like accountants or engineers are perceived to be legitimate by the public as well as end-users because accreditation is a pre-requisite to employment and because entrance requirements (i.e. education, ethics, training, etc.) are comprehensive and consistent.
The idea of “security as a profession” is further complicated in Canada by the fact that most provincial legislation ignores security managers; whereas, security management certification has become something of an industry obsession. An inconvenient truth for the security industry is that the strength of its reputation is based on the merit of its weakest member. If entrance into the industry continues to require minimal training and education, then its claim to being a profession will continue to be severely undermined.
Private security may never be broadly viewed as a profession as long as entrance requirements are minimal and industry certification remains reserved for the senior levels of the industry. However, the RCSP is a first step towards amending the general perception of the private security industry from “night watchmen” to a “Chartered Security Professionals.”
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