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The Rising Dangers for Security Officers and How Companies Can Respond

The Rising Dangers for Security Officers and How Companies Can Respond
Security officers face increasing dangers, from high-risk environments to inadequate support. Companies must prioritize their safety with proper training, equipment, staffing, and support.
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While many companies will end this year with posts about how much they have achieved during 2023, we would like to use our voice, and with our last article of the year, bring up for discussion a topic that is not easily addressed and many will try to avoid; however, it must be discussed and we want to raise awareness to this very important issue which is the “security officer killed on duty” reports.

We can all agree that in the last few years, the security industry has been facing an alarming trend with the increase in attacks on security officers. These brave men and women who stand on the front lines to protect property, assets, maintain order, and ensure public safety, are increasingly becoming targets themselves. The latest news indicates a disturbing rise in violent incidents involving security personnel. These range from verbal assaults to fatal encounters. This escalation not only endangers the officers but also undermines the safety and security they strive to provide.

Finding a specific and comprehensive list of security officers killed on duty in the U.S. is extremely challenging. The available data mainly focuses on law enforcement officers rather than private security officers. In addition, compiling a detailed list is difficult primarily due to the absence of a centralized reporting system like that utilized by law enforcement agencies. Many of the general public think of private security officers as second-rate citizens and do not hold them in very high regard. Adding to this, the reporting practices vary significantly between private security companies. Some incidents may not be reported and the fact that security officers work in various settings, some incidents may be reported under different categories based on the location and nature of their work, which further complicates data collection. Privacy policies and legal considerations of security firms also contribute to the limited availability of such information. This lack of uniformity and centralized data collection leads to challenges in accessing complete and accurate records of security officers’ fatalities.

By doing an online search on the news reported, we found that in 2022 we had 83 security officers killed in the line of duty. In 2023, that number before the end of the year has already reached 55 victims. While we try to grasp those numbers, we should bear in mind that the total number of deaths on duty is unknown due to the reasons we analyzed above and could actually be more numerous.

What puts security officers at risk?

These are several of the factors that contribute to the increased dangers faced by security officers:

  • High-Risk Environments: Security officers often work in settings prone to conflict, such as financial institutions, hospitals, retail establishments, and public venues, which can escalate into violence such as protests, or become a target by criminal groups.
  • Visibility as Authority Figures: Their role as enforcers of rules and protectors of people makes them visible targets for aggression. Sometimes the uniform they wear in specific danger areas can put them at an increased risk.
  • Easier Target than LE officers: Security officers might be viewed as weaker targets compared to law enforcement officers, and legal repercussions for assaulting them might be perceived as less severe.
  • Working Unarmed in Jobs that Requires Armed Security: Many clients and organizations will specifically request unarmed security officers to protect their premises even though the environment and role may absolutely call for armed ones. Sometimes due to their political views or a dislike for firearms, and sometimes because unarmed security services are obviously cheaper than armed ones. This comes as a result of clients who do not care about efficiency or officers’ safety, but merely to “Put a tick in the box” and comply with an insurance requirement or, sadly, provide their employees or customers with some false sense of security.
  • Inadequate Training and Equipment: Some guards lack sufficient training (some do not even receive the very basic training required) or equipment to manage violent situations effectively. Many are sent to work in dangerous positions with no additional protective gear and/or relevant briefing about the current situation.
  • Understaffing Positions: Assigning too few security officers to areas that require a stronger presence increases risks. In high-risk or high-traffic areas, this lack of sufficient personnel can lead to inadequate monitoring and slower reactions to emergencies, putting both the security officers and the people they are supposed to protect at greater risk. This situation highlights the need for adequate staffing based on the specific demands and risks of each location.
  • Inadequate Backup and Support: Security officers will often be tasked to handle dangerous situations without immediate assistance or reinforcement. This lack of support can escalate risks, as officers might face threats they are not equipped to manage alone. The absence of backup can lead to delayed responses in emergencies, increasing the likelihood of harm to both the officers and those they are protecting.
  • Societal Factors: A general rise in societal violence, including increased criminal activity and civil unrest, significantly impacts security personnel. We all can think of one or two States that seem to have lost all control due to crime and at the same time, have also removed all power from both LE and private security.

Protecting those who Protect

Companies employing security officers have a moral and legal duty to protect their employees. This duty extends beyond basic training to ensuring their physical and psychological well-being. Protecting security officers isn’t just about compliance with labor laws, it’s about valuing their contribution and recognizing their vital role in the company’s operations and their contribution to the company’s clients and the surrounding society.

What can we do?

First, start with caring about your people, have empathy for those who carry your company’s name and uniform. If you find empathy too hard to achieve, think of it as a mandatory business tactic. If you care for your people, your business will flourish more. If your employees are taken care of and safe, they will perform at their highest level of ability and your clients will be safe.

Provide the necessary (and why not go beyond?) training they need to perform their duties. Keep in mind different settings and environments may call for different and/or additional training. Currently, training in conflict de-escalation, self-defense, first aid and emergency response are essential. At Blue Raven Inc., it is our policy to make sure our security officers are not only trained to comply with the State’s requirements, but we offer mandatory additional training courses (for free) to those who work for us.

Make sure you are providing the required work equipment. And when we say equipment, we do not mean just uniform and patches. When we say proper equipment at Blue Raven Inc., it includes decent working shoes, good jackets for the colder areas, protective vests, body worn cameras, radios with the latest technology that can provide better coverage and have an emergency response button. Providing appropriate safety gear and communication tools can drastically reduce risk.

Having roving supervisors nearby enhances security operations significantly. These supervisors, who move around the various locations, not only check to make sure your officers are doing well or if they need anything, but can also provide additional oversight, and can offer support to the on-site security officers. Their presence ensures a more dynamic and flexible response to potential threats or emergencies, as they can quickly assess situations and coordinate effective responses in collaboration with the officers on site. At Blue Raven Inc., by implementing this approach, we have seen that it not only boosts our officers productivity and confidence (because they know they are not alone), but it has also worked as a deterrent because potential criminals recognize the unpredictable and active security presence, increasing the overall effectiveness of the security measures.

At Blue Raven Inc., we believe in the saying, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ This philosophy is at the heart of our commitment to our employees, who are not only our most valuable asset but also the very foundation of our company’s success since 2015. We recognize that our duty goes far beyond just employing them, it involves investing in their well-being and professional growth. To this end, we are dedicated to offering better wages, additional and ongoing training, proper equipment, and support. Because when we say we have their backs, we mean it!

As we approach the end of 2023, let’s all commit to working together towards reducing the loss of security officers on duty by actively seeking and implementing measures to enhance their safety. Let’s aim to create an environment where risks are minimized through improved strategies, training, and support. It’s our collective responsibility to ensure the well-being of those who stand on the front lines of our security efforts, and to strive for a successful year ahead with fewer casualties than ever among our very own people.

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