I hate to admit this, but most public agency security teams are ill-prepared to handle their day to day tasks. From subpar fitness to lack of desire, to lack of policies create more risk thru a false of sense of security for staff and students.
The topic of health and fitness is touchy, to say the least. From body positivity to ADA, talk about weight management issues, and you are likely to find yourself in front of HR. But just because you have to have difficult conversations doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them. I know, I wrote the book on weight management issues and developed a training program called 300ND Fitness
One of the most significant issues facing security teams is their weight and fitness level. It usually isn’t till after an incident that teams start to think about their fitness levels. One of our clients had an active shooter on campus. They chased the shooter across the parking lot and found themselves out-of-breath and unable to continue. Luckily the shooter decided not to come back, but if they had, the security team would have been going to a funeral soon. This finally woke up the Director of Security and we got the fitness program going. I start them off with my 300ND Fitness program and then move into other serious fitness improvements. Here’s the book if you are interested. Let’s look at some of the other issues.
Next comes the mental aspect of being able to handle it. Why are they there? Is it just a paycheck or do they have helping and saving others running thru their veins? If it is just the paycheck, you can bet your arse that when the poop starts flying, they will be hiding behind the students not defending them. This is a huge aspect and one that hiring managers often overlook. This isn’t a position that you can fill with a warm body. You need someone who has their head in the game. Someone who is willing to put their life on the line to save others. Yes, even for school security.
Next, are the policies and procedures. At a recent exploratory training I held, I asked the security team what they should do if x happened. That’s when 50% of the room had one answer, 40% had another, and 10% had another. This is a problem. If one or two people are confused, then it’s a simple misunderstanding, but when a large number of people don’t get it well, that’s a policy issue. Secondly, when there are more than two interpretations, actually just one, the policy is not clear. You must have good clear policies to direct your staff.
Next is the training program. Jumping right in on the last topic, if you have clear policies and there is room for judgment in the policy, then your training program needs to nail down how to make judgment calls and you best have gone thru at least 200 scenarios with your staff. Yes, 200 at least. It needs repetition. The average mind requires some 17 exposures to learn something. Unfortunately, that is in a relaxed environment. Under stress and where skills are perishable, then you must train over and over and over again. Two hundred times is the minimum starting point, and then you need to do that multiple times a year.
Let me give you some examples here. We test security systems all the time. Last week, I was able to sneak on campus and was finally caught by security. Their policy was to make people sign in at the front desk. The judgment call was how to walk people there. So, classically the guard said I needed to check in and then proceeded to show me the way. She leads the way through leaving me to walk behind her. Without ever looking back, I was able to run off again without her knowing it.
Here’s another one for you. After taking a gallon baggie of cocaine from a student and calling the local Sherriff’s office, the security team did not complete a chain of custody form. The sheriff did not take the bag of cocaine with them but instead left it at the school site. The security team, once again, failed to do a chain of custody and left the baggie with the front desk admin, who gave it to the Principal. Later the Principal was arrested for possession of cocaine on school grounds. Unable to prove what happened, he served six months probation, and the security officer was fired. Was this the security officers’ fault, no. But it was a top-down leadership issue revolving around training and policies.
If you take care of these essential points, then your security team will be able to handle anything. It takes time to do and needs to be developed.