Interviews

BSIA webinar: opportunity now

by Mark Rowe

Now is the time of opportunity for the UK’s private security industry to build on the greater public perception of its officers’ front-line work, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. That was a theme of this afternoon’s BSIA webinar.

Chaired by the trade association’s Membership Development Manager Tom Ford, and sponsored by the software firm Innovise, the webinar heard from Ian Todd, pictured, the chief executive of the UK regulator the Security Industry Authority (SIA); Russel Kerr, of the Glasgow-based guarding firm and ACS Pacesetters member Securigroup; and Tony Cockcroft, BSIA vice-chairman and chairman of the association’s security guarding section.

On that public perception of officers, Russel Kerr said that the industry has made really significant progress over the last ten or 15 years; ‘in my view regulation has without a shadow of a doubt improved the private security industry …. our people are absolutely front and centre’. He gave the examples of security staff as the face of multi-national corporations, by managing their receptions; and making vital first impressions welcoming people to and from cruise liners; and reassuring customers in shopping centres. Improving perception, he went on, is through uniform, posture, and engagement with the public; among the skills for officers he listed were empathy, and being customer focused, and non-confrontational, and being prepared for emergencies.

He recalled the BSIA’s recent annual awards, which instead of the usual London lunch had to be held online – ‘our industry and people are doing absolutely extraordinary things’.

Tony Cockcroft praised the industry’s united voice, and said that now is the time to use the momentum as a result of pandemic-related work, to raise the profile of private security. “We know how professional we are; we are very good at telling ourselves how profession we are; but we have to project that image to the wider public.”

Ian Todd, who began working in the ambulance service before he moved into industry regulation, mentioned that he has done some volunteering for the ambulance service during the pandemic, and referred to the important work by security officers outside hospital A&E departments. Asked by Tom Ford about private security’s work with police, Ian Todd said that it was time to extend that work, and for consistency nationally; ‘to have the same quality conversations everywhere about what the partnership looks like’. This would not be privatisation of the police, he added, but police and private security using different skillsets ‘in the most appropriate way’.

Aired towards the end of the webinar was the idea of a ‘National Pandemic Association’ of ‘key worker’ sectors such as private security. Tony Cockcroft said that initially as a country, we were unprepared. “We know that we are not out of Covid, we know there is a chance, looking at other countries, that there may well be a second spike. And I think if we did have that National Pandemic Association, including all key workers, that it would certainly enable us to mobilise and initialise a response far quicker than we are able to do [in March].”

You can see the webinar on Youtube: visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4bDZ5s7ddk&feature=youtu.be.

See also the August 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine.

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