As the chair of the school of Criminal Justice, each new class presents some unique issues to be addressed. Yet, there are always common questions which recur for each class. One of these always concerns what the modern security professional needs to be aware of in this changing technological era. With each incoming class, and with each graduating class, I have always stressed four key principles that they must beware of if they are to be successful in their new profession. In this article we will take a look at those four parameters and how they impact not only individuals, but the system of security throughout this country as a whole. The need to provide service, to continue education, to remember the need for latitude, and to understand the growing flexibility of the new technological age are the four pillars that will make a successful professional, and a successful system for security.
In the instruction of college students, we sometimes take for granted that their understanding of the world at large is the same as the professors that provide the instruction. This is seldom the case. In Criminal Justice programs for almost a decade we saw increasing numbers of young high school graduates come into programs with the intent of becoming police officers, or what we have grown to identify as public security officials. Over the last two years this process has change radically. With the economic pressure on states, counties, and cities, we have seen a reduction in number of public security personnel in the face of rising cost. The cost of training and maintaining the average police officer has increased over 415% since the 1980s as indicated in the department of justice and labor statistics. It is this extreme escalation in cost that has forced society away from public security and toward private security professionals for economic reasons. Yet service, a key factor that any security professional or organization must provide, has very different meanings for each of these groups. Police departments are and were created to provide protection to the population at large. This is often a very different type of service, and will continue to be a very different type of service than that provided by the private security professional whose creation and existence is often driven by contract to protect private property. Private security does not have the same posture toward people.
The nature of service is changing dramatically as we make the transition from large public forces, to smaller contract driven private forces in our society. Helping students to understand this distinction can often be traumatic for those that come to the educational institution with only the concept of public service as their vision. The study of contract law and the intricacies involved focuses the student on these differences. The distinction between the two natures of service becomes clear, if not readily accepted. An example occurred recently in Seattle that made national headlines. The City of Seattle operates a public bus system in the city. At one facility where buses would engage in turnarounds, security was not provided by police, but by a private security company. One particular evening, a young lady found herself under attack by a group of young men in this facility. The private security officers responsible for this facility could be seen on camera not responding to the individual who was in distress. A Public outcry resulted from this lack of response and service. Once the investigation was undertaken it became apparent that the contract which allowed these private security forces into this facility restricted their ability to respond to individual attacks. Their responsibility was the protection of property, i.e. the buses, the property of that company to which they contracted. They were providing service in according with the terms of their contract, but not in terms of the social contract that society often expects from public security entities. It is this new change in understanding that the public must grow to understand as we make a shift from public security to private security in many of these areas. In time, we will balance these issues of service but at present it is an area that the security professional must be aware of and understand more fully.
Twenty years ago the average police officer needed little more than a high school education, and some well cultivated connections on a local police force before being accepted for training in a state sponsored academy. Likewise, a private security officer needed the same educational background to be accepted into a program that provided minimal training before being allowed to carry a firearm and to use lethal force. Those days are long gone. Today the modern security professional, weather in the public sector are the private sector, faces a growing pressure for increased levels of education. At the institution where I teach, we hire a number of adjuncts to teach classes each year. Many of these people come from police departments, and others from private security companies and the court systems in terms of prosecutors both Federal and state. The minimum requirement to teach a course at our institution, and many other institutions is a master’s degree as a minimum. We see the same trend in companies looking to hire new graduates.
In many segments of the security industry, especially those dealing with information systems, the Bachelor’s Degree is the minimum requirement to get in the door of the company. The American Society of Industrial Security, the largest organization in the country for security professionals, has been one of the leaders in establishing higher educational requirement for all private companies across the nation. Likewise, public security agencies such as sheriff’s departments and police departments who for years have used the associates degree as the minimum requirement for entry level positions, have slowly begun to back away from that position. An associate degree may get you an entry level job with a police department or a sheriff’s department, but you will not be promotable. Over the last decade, as evidenced by U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, which keeps educational statistics for all colleges across the country, Criminal Justice programs had moved significantly away from certificates programs and associate degrees toward full bachelor’s degree programs for their students. This is driven in part by the complexity of technology graduates must face. This will not change in the foreseeable future.
Latitude as a concept is very difficult to explain to students, and often just as difficult for professionals in the field to grasp. Latitude deals with political astuteness, and the ability to have room to maneuver in current societal situations. The security professional whether in the public sector or the private sector must deal with individuals that represent different strata’s of society. They may be discussing issues with the CEO of a large multinational conglomerate, a politician, or dealing with a highly sensitive issue for a single family. Each of these requires a certain degree of latitude, or political astuteness. The professional must be aware of the political realities of changing situations. They must be comfortable in a wide range of political situations and understand what room for maneuvering is available to them in order to address the problems they may face.
In the world of today, and tomorrow, the security professional must be the ultimate utility person. They must be comfortable with a range of technological systems, and be comfortable with these systems. Whether they are dealing with psychological profiles to help them understand their community, or the personal data they will safeguard for that community, they must be capable of dealing with a bewildering array of technology. The security professional of today must have unparalleled flexibility to move seamlessly, and flawlessly between a large number of systems and to be proficient in their use.
In understanding what will be required in the changing economic, political, social, and technological environment of the future, security professionals must understand and add here to these four fundamental pillars of success. To succeed, the successful security professional, irrespective of whether in the public or private sector must understand the important and changing nature of service in the future. They will likewise be aware of increasing educational goals with in their areas and adjust their educational goals according. Finally they must obtain a firm grasp of the need for latitude, and its political subtleties as well as flexibility which is being driven by technological need in a changing world. If they adhere to these four pillars, that will be successful and society will be the better for it.