Una Riley reports on a first: security personnel from the United States and the UK are to share their respective knowledge and experience as part of the SAAE (SectorGuard Anglo-American Exchange).
The concept was designed by SectorGuard plc to heighten the profession’s profile and the role security officers play within the different communities, The purpose of the SAAE is to introduce an exchange of ‘best practice’ from each country based upon training, professionalism and Knowledge-sharing. The aim is also to identify the difference of working practice and methodology between the US and the UK. Under the exchange, officers were chosen from each country to experience the difference of being a private security officer in the US compared with that of the UK. Initially we had two Americans Matthew Kirwin and William McLaughlin from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) where they work as private security officers come over to the UK [featured in the August issue] and in October the UK officers will fly to America. The US guys arrived here in July and had an amazing itinerary that took them from the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, Harrods, University College London, UCL Hospital and Project Griffin. They also met City of London Police Commissioner Mike Bowron. It was a whirlwind of a week where the UK put their best foot forward when it came to showing exactly how we perform as a private security profession. David Marks the CEO of SectorGuard invited the guys (and me) out on the town on one of the evenings and took us to dinner at The Ivy, and on to see the quintessentially English play – The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. A great time was had by all. Although entertained in the evenings it was the serious business of the SAAE that was the main focus point. The information gathered from the experience will be shared with the profession both in the UK and in the US. The SAAE are in the process of collecting the data and feedback from the VIP hosts and the delegates and will release the information early next year. The informal side of the experience has been shared with everyone (on both sides of the Atlantic) on a Facebook account, via a link from SectorGuard’s website (www.sectorguard.co.uk) so that everyone can keep up with the officers’ progress.
The SAAE was open to all UK applicants and two British officers were selected from a shortlist of impressive entrants to travel to the US where they will also experience an exciting itinerary; shadowing US officers from different environments. Bonnie Michelman, Director of Police and outside services for MGH will be managing the US side of the concept. Bonnie is a former President of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) as well as a life honorary member of the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals within the City of London. The two successful applicants are Rhett Brown of Knightsbridge Guarding Ltd and Paul Aisbitt of First Security (Guards) Ltd. Both officers were nominated by their respective clients; praise indeed. Rhett is the Duty Operations Manager at the London Stock Exchange and Paul is the Security Control Room Operator at Credit Suisse. I caught up with them at the offices of Credit Suisse to ask how they felt about their pending experience. As I was asking the same questions of two people I decided to adopt a ‘celebrity’ interview technique on this occasion:
Una: How do you feel about the idea of the SAAE?
Paul: I feel very excited about it! It is a great initiative…I work for a huge American bank and we have been pushing to ‘exchange’ with our counterparts in America but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. However, with the advent of the SAAE it has inspired us to take the idea further. So it will be nice to be a forerunner in this type of thing … the SAAE is definitely the first to have accomplished this initiative and I am proud to be one of the first UK officers to take part.
Rhett: I think this is a wonderful opportunity to represent our industry, our companies and the clients we service. We understand that it is the exchange of ideas with our American counterparts … we hope that we will take a degree of expertise over there and we hope to glean information and their expertise level to bring back here.
Una: What do you think that the SAAE will provide on behalf of the profession?
Paul: As I mentioned I think that it will stimulate my company to do an ‘exchange’ with our counterparts in the USA. When their US head of security comes over here, he is very complimentary about our guys … so it will be very interesting to see how a completely different US operation works and then to be able to compare some time in the future the way we work as a company on both sides of the pond. So I think that the SAAE is an inspiration to the security profession.
Rhett: I am hoping that it will heighten the profession and the way the role of the security officer is perceived by not only the client and industry but by the general public as a whole. I would like to see an awareness of our profession and the practitioners within. If we can show the world how professional we are about private security then it has got to be an advantage to the chaps on the ground, the management and the industry … then perhaps we may get the respect as professionals that we think we deserve from everyone we come in to contact with.
Una: What different areas of working practice are you personally looking for?
Rhett: My great interest is training. I feel that we do not utilise our training opportunities. I will be very interested in the way our US opposite number train their staff to perform their duties. What level of training they will go up to and how that possibly can be expanded within our own industry in this country?
Paul: I am very coal-face and will be looking at ground floor level delivery and how the US officers work? How well do they get on with their management? I will be looking at their duties and tasking and that sort of thing. Communication is critical to me … I want to see how they react to operations and client requirements. I will be looking at how US officers actually perceive their role within the profession … that is the sort of thing I will be looking at.
Una: What do you think the UK profession can actually offer the US?
Rhett: One of the things that I think that our officers in the UK are very good at, is what I call ‘hearts and minds’. I will be interested to see if our American opposite numbers are as good at that type of service delivery. By ‘hearts and minds’ I mean that whilst we interact with our clients accordingly, we also have another job to do that the client often does not see. It is this holistic approach to service delivery that I am trying to explain. For instance, a front of house security officer not only deals with the client but also on behalf of the client has to interact with people they see every day from receptionists, cleaners, contractors to the general public. To keep these huge building running ship shape there is a lot of work going on at any one time and everyone is in a hurry … time is money! There are many people who are running the building on behalf of the client and it is this liaison that goes on with other suppliers where we (security officers) deal with issues over and above the call of duty sometime. We appreciate the importance of other suppliers to our clients and the work that goes on behind the scenes … with all the other service delivery that is going on it all involves security at some time or another. Whilst the general public may see a very smart uniformed officer on the door as they enter the building … a moment earlier that same officer may have been dealing with a critical management challenge … behind the scenes. I am interested to see how our counterparts interact with people other than the client directly.
Paul: Hmmm … that is actually a difficult question. In-house we have a lot of additional training because we have such a huge building and a client that rightly demands high standards and good guarding. We have a high level of training that is client driven so I think that is what I will be taking over to the US to compare the market forces as far as the client is concerned.
Una: Where do you think that the US is more professional than the UK?
Paul: They are probably more professional with their customer service at time s…’Have a nice day’ … that sort of thing. I haven’t actually been to the States, so that is one of the things I will be looking for. The SAAE will give me the chance to see first hand what they do best.
Rhett: I will be interested to identify within the different States the powers that the private security officers have. That is going to be an interesting area for me … for instance their powers of ‘stop and search’ and the ability to arrest and detain. This type of area is of interest because of course private security officers can carry guns? I want to know the difference of the way they deal with these issues in comparison with our common law which we have to abide by…and does it make them more professional?
Una: What do you think you will get out of the experience of the SAAE on a personal level?
Rhett: On a personal level it is a fascinating learning experience. It is an opportunity to see how our US colleagues do things over there. Hopefully I will be able to bring back input to maybe move in to training areas for my guys and implement best practice. That is what we are looking at.
Paul: Personally I will get the experience of the US culture pertaining to security practice and hopefully I will bring that experience back to not only my company and colleagues but also share those experiences via the SAAE platform with the rest of the UK.
Una: How will you apply your new found knowledge and experience?
Rhett: I have a series of briefings set up on my return. So I will certainly be front loading my company and senior management and hopefully set up client meeting to transfer the gained knowledge.
Paul: Basically I would try to make as many notes as possible and after meeting with my managers we will decide what we will bring forward to help our client and company.
Una adds: Matthew and William (American officers) were a credit to their organisation and USA. I am sure that Rhett and Paul will be great Ambassadors on behalf of the UK and the security profession. Good luck guys.