This article is part 1 of a 3-part series written by Graham Ludwig addressing integrity, compromise and global standards in the Security and Protection industry worldwide.
Read part 2 here.
Frank Gallagher is the author of a very pertinent article on Integrity and having read the article I decided to expand on some of his sentiments.
In the article he states that “Integrity is something that has never occurred to roughly 90% of the guys that claim to be protection specialists.” I differ slightly from Frank as I’m a bit more optimistic about the percentage of operators that started out with integrity. Unfortunately, integrity is a quality that cannot be tested or taught and prior to putting a candidate in the field to establish whether this quality indeed exists we are left to go on a gut feel.
The big question is, how did integrity, the cornerstone of our industry, get so eroded and how do we turn things around? I believe that there are a couple of more significant factors that have contributed to the state of the Industry;
Company Profit vs. people
I like to believe that company owners started out with the best interest of the industry at heart. Unfortunately a lot seem to have lost their way over time with their profits (shareholders) becoming more important than their people. Companies started compromising quality just to make up the numbers, with stringent vetting processes falling by the way. With the need to compete on price against fly by night companies they then also started compromising on both the training of their teams and the comprehensive assessment of new recruits. Thus the new criteria for a role in EP became; a certificate stating that the “Protector” was registered with their country or state’s regulatory body and that they held a firearm competency and a driver’s licence.
With the subsequent influx of less competent “Protectors” the more experienced professional is being side-lined for the wannabe who readily accepts a minimum wage to gain experience. When the Professional, who is then forced to accept the lower rate of remuneration voices his concern, he effectively gives up his status as the preferred supplier.
This cycle is perpetuated and the professional is relegated to the role of standby guy who then only becomes the “go to guy”, when the poo hits the fan. This alignment with the lowest common denominator and the financial abuse of our most valuable assets are some of the biggest contributors to the state of the industry. Protectors generally establish very close relationships with their principle and invariably finds out what their company is billing the client for their service. The integrity less wannabe sees this difference between the billed rate and his / her remuneration as further abuse, as they generally don’t understand the cost to company to support their contract. When they discover this disparity they somehow feel justified in approaching the client directly in the belief that they have been the ones to secure the contract. Once they travel this road, any semblance of integrity they had is gone and the damage to the industry continues.
Unfortunately the seasoned professional in his disillusionment is now taking on PSD roles in the sand pit where the remuneration makes up for the compromise and the industry loses another professional. The pool of capable Protectors is small enough as it is without the leaders in the industry abusing the professional to improve their bottom line. Consistent work in our industry for freelance Protectors is not guaranteed and the onus is on the Security companies to ensure that the professionals we have, get what work there is. We need to unreservedly protect our most valuable resource.
So where to from here?
It’s not all doom and gloom and while a great deal of damage has been done the question is how do we fix it? How do we weed out these less than competent “operators” and ensure that we return our profession to its rightful status? How do we grow the industry, and protect both the competent protectors and the reputation of our industry?
While the urge may be to blacklist or “hall of shame” Protectors, I believe we need to rather highlight the competent protectors and the incompetent will expose themselves. As Frank mentioned in his article on integrity, it’s crucial that “we work together to improve the performance of all members in the profession and loose the poseurs.” To this end I believe that a multi-pronged approach to change the general perception of our industry is needed, with solutions ranging from the comprehensive assessment of each Protectors “real ability”, to the education of the client with regards to what to expect from a qualified Protector. Fortunately the education of clients has already started thanks to efforts by companies like AS Solutions but I believe that the greatest impact we can have is by implementing comprehensive, practical assessments based on global best practice to determine each protector’s ability and thus the role they would be able to perform in the Protection arena. Not everyone is T/L material.
What is “global best practice” and who determines these criteria without shattering egos? This is an extensive, sensitive subject which I will attempt to address in an article on “Global Standards for the Protection Industry”. To reform the industry we as leaders need to collaborate to ensure the wellbeing of the industry. As Frank says “those of us that work in the top 10% of the field must not lower our guard and let these people ruin the profession.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 "Global Standards for the Protection Industry"