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CCTV View

by msecadm4921

John Ansell of Berkhamsted-based trainers Secur-Ed writes.

It’s almost exactly ten years since ‘The Human Touch’ was published in which, as the then CCTV liaison officer for Thames Valley Police, I expressed my sheer exasperation at the complete lack of role-specific training available for CCTV operators – despite the Home Office pumping millions of pounds into the funding of CCTV systems.<br><br>How much has changed in that time? What improvements have been made and, in particular, how much more emphasis is now placed on that all-important ‘Human Element’ when it comes to CCTV operations?<br>During the past decade the Home Office has continued to help fund numerous CCTV Systems but, despite those early concerns, echoed in many influential quarters, funding has continued to be made available to finance only the installation of systems – not the people. The development of protocols, the delivery and the funding of training required to ensure lawful compliance with relevant legislation, has continued to be left in the hands of the scheme owners. And all this regardless of the Data Protection and Human Rights Acts, (to name but two of the most relevant pieces of legislation) being in place for well over six years.<br>During our recent absence from the country, we have maintained links with the industry and our strong belief, first manifested during our management of the early years of the CCTV User Group, in the development of regulation and, especially, the training and development of those involved in the operation of CCTV – at all levels. So we watched anxiously during the last few years as the Private Security Industry Act was passed and the Security Industry Authority began to develop. We studied the proposals for licensing and, of particular interest, the level and depth of training required before a licence application could be made.<br>Since returning to the UK during the autumn of last year, we have seen quite a number of negative articles and heard several highly critical comments of some SIA policies and procedures. We’ve even seen ‘warnings’ from within the industry that the SIA inspectors are about to pounce! Isn’t regulation what we wanted? Haven’t we all been striving for ways to enhance and improve the professionalism and efficiency of members of the Security Industry whilst raising their profile? Regulation without enforcement is not regulation; it is nothing more than self-discipline. While that might work for some, it would not work for all and it would certainly not be enough to satisfy the concerns of the public or to weaken the arguments of civil rights campaigners.<br>CCTV hardware and software may have improved, cameras may have got smaller and more powerful, transmission methods may have become more flexible and cheaper, one fact has remained ever since that first CCTV system was installed over twenty years ago in East Anglia – a CCTV system, no matter how sophisticated, is nothing more than a tool to gather information. The appropriateness, accuracy, usefulness and credibility of that information is only as good as the people responsible for operating the scheme – not the technical abilities of the equipment. As someone said to me recently, you can have a poor CCTV system with a good operator – you cannot have a good CCTV system with a poor operator.<br>During the past eight or nine months, we have delivered SIA endorsed training to more than 200 CCTV operators around the country. During that training I have taken the opportunity to explore how many of those operators have previously undergone any formal training to equip them for their all-important role, which, in many cases, they had been performing for a number of years. Training in Health and Safety at Work was invariably mentioned, some Operators were qualified in First Aid, most had received training in Emergency Procedures specific to their location and quite a few had undergone the SIA Door Supervisors Training. How many had been offered specific CCTV training? – virtually none!<br>Now the deadline has passed – the 11th March has long gone. The teams have been trained and licences applied for. What now? What happens when one of those newly licensed operators leaves. How do you recruit, then train and licence – or do you train and licence then recruit? Who pays? What if he or she is not successful? Etc… We are already seeing advertisements offering ‘_1000 bonus if SIA licensed’ so where do we go from here?<br>One (very) senior officer in the police used to say to me &quot;Don’t bring me problems – bring me solutions&quot;. It is to those questions that we are now trying to offer solutions. Our recently developed training facility is not big; in fact we couldn’t take any more than six people at any one time so we’re able to offer small group training or even ones and twos. By being small and informal, we can often accommodate those who may have learning difficulties or whose first language is not English. We cannot offer ‘distance learning’ for Operators, (the SIA training criteria requires 30 ‘guided learning hours’), but we can offer those 30 hours training in a way that is much more flexible than four consecutive days. We offer weekend courses and evening classes, any combination of which can be used to make up the required thirty hours. We don’t only train operators, we offer training for anyone and everyone involved in the operation of CCTV – Operators, Supervisors, End-Users and Managers. There are only two of us, but we both meet the SIA criteria for training providers so we have the benefit of having one of the few female trainers in the security industry. We are ideally located just a few minutes from the M25 and little more than half an hour by train from London. We believe in the professionalism and efficiency of CCTV operations. Ever since those early User Group days we have believed in the concept of ‘doing things right – to do the right thing’. From our experience, we believe that to be especially true of people involved in the operation of CCTV – at all levels.

About the writer: A former Thames Valley Police chief inspector, John Ansell was a founder of the CCTV User Group. For more details:

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