Okay, I have checked out the SGSecure app and it looks good. You can just take a video or photo with your phone and send it over to the police along with an incident report. You can also make emergency calls with just a tap of your finger. Cool. With this, security guards can just trade in their bulky walkie-talkies for slim smart phones, right?
I think before we talk about how security guards can use new technology to better do their job, we have to talk about how much the clients are willing to let us help. Back in the day, when I was in the army, my buddies and I were encouraged to send in our Work Improvement Team Scheme (WITS) ideas even though we were just rank-and-file soldiers. Unfortunately, the private security industry doesn’t work like that.
Security guards are at the bottom of the hierarchy and we are usually not encouraged to offer workplace improvement suggestions to our clients or employers.
Take my work experience at a certain shopping mall for example. In 10-13, a chapter in my book, I described an incident where I had to deal with several juvenile deliquents who were flouting mall regulations. I approached them politely and advised them to take their fundraising to a public area outside the mall. And from there, things took a turn for the worse. The delinquents hurled abuses and threats at me just for doing my job.
And what did mall managment do? They ignored me. I was told to make a police report in my own personal capacity and not involve the mall. None of the mall executives or managers wanted to interview me even though I was the only person capable of giving a first-hand account. They didn’t want to know anything. Not about the gaping holes in their security protocols. Not about ways to improve safety for their employees.
It’s all fine and dandy asking us guards to look out for suspicious behaviour and what not but, when the shit hits the fan, will the management back us up? That’s what we should be discussing, when we talk about using new technology or new whatever to better secure our work sites.
More importantly, and this may come as a surprise to non-security guards, most places do not allow their guards to take the initiative to contact the police. The correct protocol for a security guard, upon witnessing criminal activity, is to first contact one’s immediate supervisor. And the supervisor will in turn contact an executive or manager above him for permission to call the cops. Sometimes, the supervisor gets to make the call but at most of my work sites, an agency supervisor has to refer the matter (of calling the cops) to the higher ups, usually an in-house executive or manager.
So just picture this scene in your head. A violent fight breaks out between groups of delinquents at a shopping mall. The security guard passes by, sees the situation and reports the incident via his walkie-talkie as per protocol. And the report is passed along to his supervisor sitting in the Fire Command Center and then from the supervisor to a mall executive sitting in another office. The mall executive will properly digest this piece of secondhand information and then give the go-ahead to call the police.
Meanwhile, at the moment when the security guard is reporting this incident via walkie-talkie, random shoppers at the mall are taking out their smart phones and taking pictures or videos and sending in reports to the police via their SGSecure apps. And while the supervisor is relaying the information to mall management, posts are being shared on Facebook, attracting hundreds of Likes.
What I am trying to tell you here is this: Before pushing new technology or buzzwords to security guards, try to solve the fundamental problem first. Namely, the lack of trust and expectation that exist between those at management level and security guards. If our clients and employers can’t be bothered to empower us to do our job, back us up when our safety is threatened and trust us enough to make emergency calls out of our own initiative, then no amount of new technology or buzzwords will help us perform better at work.
About The Author:
Loh Teck Yong is a security guard who aspires to become a published writer. His completed manuscript, Guards Gone Wild!, is a collection of short stories about his adventures in the private security industry.
Readers with questions about the private security industry can email the author at guardsgonewild at gmail. Selected questions may be published in future columns of Ask A Security Guard.