Guest Editorial by Charles Bohnenberger, Vice President of Government Services at Allied Universal®
There was a time when municipalities routinely dismissed the idea of hiring contract security services.
Administrators feared that contract security teams would lack training and discipline, they worried that the perception of outsourcing would cause problems among employees and elected officials, and some rank-and-file police professionals viewed contract security as infringing on their turf.
But times are changing, and local leaders are facing problems that are taxing their agencies’ ability to provide appropriate levels of protection.
According to a recent report by the Police Executive Forum (PERF), a survey of 400 Police Departments shows 66 percent of those departments report seeing declining numbers of applications.
There are many factors contributing to this decline.
A booming economy is making competition for labor extreme.
Traditionally, competition for candidates would be among law enforcement agencies or related fields.
But with a tight labor market, agencies are competing with businesses and agencies much more broadly.
Studies also show that the idea of shift work, in a role that society increasingly criticizes on a daily basis, is not very attractive to younger workers.
(The Mobile Police Department is confronting the national crisis of recruitment and retention of police officers. It’s one of many urban police departments across the nation affected by a shortage of qualified applicants and at the same time is struggling to retain the funded strength of its workforce due to the fierce competition. Courtesy of WKRG and YouTube. Posted on Sep 12, 2019.)
While officials struggle to find ways to mitigate these problems, increasing threats from acts of violence, terrorism, and civil disorder, force decision makers to look for alternative models for security.
Outsourcing contract security can be an effective way to address strained budgets and limited manpower resources, without sacrificing quality service.
In order to be a viable alternative for government agencies, the contract security industry has invested in training, management, recruiting and screening best practices that have led to high quality security programs.
Investments in technology as a force multiplier and predictive tools to support a dynamic security program that offers flexibility all are contributing to building relationships between security professionals and law enforcement agencies that are growing and developing into mutually respectful partnerships.
Municipalities that hire a contract security company are able to use security professionals for routine duties such as access control and screening, allowing police to focus on law enforcement matters.
Contract security should be viewed as a partnership with the municipality where the police have the time and resources to concentrate on the police work while the contract security team can focus on activities that do not warrant the use of sworn police professionals.
Trained security professionals stationed at a courthouse or city hall, for example, can be an effective deterrent, allowing only unarmed people who should be in the courthouse, to enter.
(Ensuring security is critical to the safety of your facility and employees. But safety can be hard to achieve in hazardous environments if your security staff is not trained to recognize unsafe conditions and doesn’t account for the unique regulatory requirements of your industry, such as complying with the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). Allied Universal’s plant security solutions support a culture of safety that focuses on both the procedures and processes that guide your operations, as well as the attitudes and behaviors of your employees and contractors. Courtesy of Allied Universal and YouTube.)
Today’s municipalities are beginning to realize that they don’t need sworn police offers handing out name tags, “wanding” visitors or manning x-ray machines when security professionals can be trained to do the job effectively and reliably with oversight of the police.
Municipalities are constantly under the scrutiny of the media and the general public.
The day-to-day concerns of protecting government facilities demand highly trained, experienced and reliable professionals who are accountable and dedicated to their duties.
While cost is an issue when hiring contract security, cutting too close to the bone with your budget can limit the caliber of officer hired.
Quality training, designed specifically for the site, also plays a critical role in an effective security program.
As Vice President of Government Services for the country’s premier provider of highly trained security personnel, I believe it is vital that the contract security company place a premium on the continual training of their professionals.
The total training program must have the depth to transcend multiple markets and also accommodate site-specific requirements.
Top security officer training should include emergency preparedness topics from day one.
These training courses, such as First Aid/CPR/AED, evacuation procedures, terrorism and active shooter awareness and fire safety are important for all professionals regardless of the type of site they protect or where it is located.
Basic training lays the groundwork for operational success and helps ensure that professionals will act quickly, competently and safely when faced with an emergency.
Every government site is unique. While the training must match the needs of the site, the entire program and the personnel selected must as well.
That customization begins in the provider selection phase.
(Allied Universal secures your campus with highly-trained security professionals and state-of-the-art technology so you can focus on creating a safe environment for your students, faculty, and staff. No matter if your institution is large or small; public or private; or located in an urban, suburban or rural setting, Allied Universal understands your security concerns and has many years of experience providing campus security officer services. Courtesy of Allied Universal and YouTube.)
Government procurement officials can have wildly different approaches on how to go about selecting a security partner.
I have seen a broad disparity of Requests for Proposals from those that are well thought out and ask the right questions to identify a quality provider, to those that fail to disclose necessary information to submit a comprehensive bid.
For example, government agencies should be clear as to how many armed and unarmed security professionals will be needed and for what shifts.
Special training requirements, the need for clearances and other recruiting specifications should also be addressed.
If the organization preparing the RFP is unsure of what to include, the contending vendors, as well as security industry associations, can provide guidance as to what information should be covered.
If the government agency is unsure of the best solution, they should include site visits in the RFP process, an opportunity for vendors to ask questions, and welcome solutions in the bid process rather than just ask for bill rates.
This opens the door for more strategy and more options that should help uncover the provider that is the best match.
Furthermore, agencies can issue draft RFP’s to seek industry input before issuing its final solicitation.
(Allied Universal has earned the trust of healthcare executives and security directors nationwide because we have expertise in providing responsive security services for a wide variety of healthcare facilities, no matter if your site is a single medical office, a large healthcare system, or any size in-between. Courtesy of Allied Universal and YouTube.)
If it is important to you to work with a vendor that is focused on delivering sustainable security solutions, that needs to be identified in the RFP.
We employ skilled people who build relationships with the client to form mutually respectful partnerships. Government security directors want their contract security team to be accountable.
An effective collaboration between private security and government demands that everyone involved from management to site professionals understand their role in keeping the municipality and its people safe and secure.
About the Author:
Charlie Bohnenberger serves as Vice President of Government Services at Allied Universal®, a leading security and facility services company in North America with over 215,000 employees and revenues over $7.3 billion, that provides unparalleled security services and technology solutions.
He can be reached at Charles.Bohnenberger@aus.com.
Allied Universal Returns to Compete in 2019 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Program
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