Dr. Ross L Riggs January 2018
author of “Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat”
Not long ago, I was asked to put down in a few sentences how private, licensed security firms and the individuals working for them help make Ohio safer. If you follow my writing at all, you know that I am a strong proponent of the concept that the only person who can make you safer is you. Still, though, there are circumstances in which security personnel add to the safety equation for a business. By keeping businesses safer, the employees and customers are safer. Logic would argue that safer businesses, employees and customers results in an overall positive effect for the state. I’ll very briefly examine three components of professional security which result in a safer community. The three are: Trained, Equipped, and Observant.
We begin with the expectation that every individual employed by a professional security company in the State of Ohio is vetted. A requirement of the Ohio Department of Public Safety and the Ohio Department of Homeland Security is every person who holds the company license and every individual employed under that license undergo a thorough background check which includes an automated fingerprint check through the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification (BCI&I).
Likewise, any individual to receive on their license an endorsement to allow him or her to carry on-duty must also have a fingerprint record check through the FBI.
First, then, in our list of items that professional security employers provide are agents who are: trained. We will begin with firearms. If a person is to receive an endorsement on their registration as a ‘firearm bearer’ they must first also show completion of either a 140 hour ‘civilian’ firearms qualification program credentialed by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA). The course must be supervised by an OPOTA certified instructor. The only other way in which a person working for a security company is to be a current holder of an OPOTA Certification as a Peace Officer in Ohio and records indicated a firearms qualification within the last 12 months. All firearms bearers must requalify annually.
I have purposely not used the term security guards because of the injustice done to those who work as guards by Hollywood and media in general. The old days of a retired, older gentleman with a large ring of keys in on hand a thermos of coffee in the other strolling from one station to the next where he would insert a key that showed he had ‘checked’ that area and he’d amble on through the night, often afraid of his own shadow or just looking for a place to nap are long gone. As certain as I am that there were those who fit that description to a ‘t’; today they are working their way toward a high degree of professionalism because of the new threats that corporate America is facing in our ever-changing foreign political landscape and home-grown corporate espionage agents both in physical and in cyber security. Many companies use the term ‘officer’ and some such as my own company, use the term ‘agent’ to eliminate any confusion with local law enforcement officers.
Training on the job is an important part of any company’s program for agents. The Ohio Department of Public Safety/Homeland Security makes available for all registered agents on-line training covering a wide-range of topics all of which are relevant to security challenges in today’s corporate climate. In relation to that, ODPS requires very specific insurance that also meets the challenges of today’s world.
Equipping of law enforcement officers over the last decade has taken major strides in officer protection and in providing devices for recording interactions between citizens and the officer. Much of the same equipment is required for security work. Depending on the assignment and the location, a security agent may be wearing a uniform distinctively marked, a bullet-resistant vest, firearm, taser, and body-cam. Covert equipment has also taken huge steps in the last two decades. Constantly changing electronics and digital information recorders, covert recording devices, tracking devices and a multitude of tools have make it safer for investigations to progress. Agents must continually stay abreast of ever changing laws that may impact their work.
The third area that I chose to help explain the concept that better vetted and trained security personnel with the best available equipment will help make the regions in which they work safer for all citizens is observant. The term we use at SCI and have stressed in all our citizen safety training publications and articles is situationally aware. Agents receive training in professional organizations on being always aware of their surroundings. We do not preach paranoia but awareness and readiness to act whatever the threat might be. SCI seeks to show everyone we train, whether as an agent or in a community based training, that being aware of your situation is the best way to stay safe and keep others safe as well.
A great deal has changed in private security and investigations since Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade hunted the Maltese Falcon. The world is at our doorstep and its time we prepare ourselves to open the door. I believe that Ohio and other states are safer because of the well-trained security companies that are working together to meet the threats that are facing our private sector world. I encourage them all to stay the course.