Facility Security

Keeping Security Officers in ‘Professional Mode’ at Your Facility

Security officers can and should play many roles during their guard shifts, including providing information; good customer service to employees, vendors, and visitors; and remaining vigilant, especially when they have not encountered past crime or violence problems on the site. It’s important that they not get distracted from their security duties by employees or supervisors asking them to do tasks outside their security assignments.

FangXiaNuo / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

If an employee is comfortable with the officer’s presence or is perhaps personally familiar with the officer, it can be easy for employees to ask him or her to help with tasks that are not security-related. Helping vendors load or unload boxes, participating in a company birthday party, or even going on a coffee run for a group of employees may sound harmless and can make the security officer seem more popular or “part of the team.” But this type of “scope or mission creep” not only distracts the officer from his or her primary missions that include security vigilance, being able to intervene when required, and being ready to report or call for additional help, but it can also lessen the officer’s authority in the eyes of other employees, company executives, and outsiders. Potential thieves, vandals, or workplace violence perpetrators (which could include current or former employees or the current or former spouse or partner of an employee) might see the officer joking around or performing other nonsecurity functions and conclude the officer is not paying attention or is not professional.

Allowing security officers to wear only parts of their uniforms or to sit near a favorite employee and not at a posted duty station can send the same unprofessional message. One issue about the public’s or employees’ measure of the overall sense of professionalism in a security officer relates to whether the officer is wearing a uniform or a blazer. Some well-known international security companies put their officers in blazers, dress slacks, dress shirts and ties, with their company logo on the blazer. Their perspective is that this looks more business-oriented and less like the negative “rent-a-cop” perception that some people have when dealing with or seeing security officers. The other approach is to enforce post rules that officers will wear a full security uniform while on duty, which means no beanies, baseball hats, or personal jackets or hoodies covering their uniforms. This mindset says, “People expect security officers to look and act like uniformed, vigilant professionals while on duty.”

Having officers engage in nonsecurity functions may make them popular with the employees or convenient for the managers (who may not have to assign, hire, or pay another employee to do the additional work), but it sends the wrong message and professionalism must be enforced through the site’s security manager and be well-explained in the officer’s posted orders.