By: Mike Bowles

When weighing the value of implementing dedicated physical security services to your business or property, it is important to evaluate both your specific security needs and the added value such services will provide. Here are some important areas to address through any due diligence process:

Once you have determined what security firms in the area you believe to be the most reputable, ask each for its recommendations on how to best secure you and your assets, as opposed to relying solely on a pre-determined idea of what you need and why. A clear determination must be made to establish if security officers are needed merely as a visual deterrent to observe and report, or rather present to engage physically in the event of a violent act or emergency. The former requires less training, is less expensive and most likely will result in less liability. Generally speaking, the later poses higher risk. Be ever mindful that the use of excessive force or failure to prevent any dire event for which they were hired could lead to issues of business culpability. Often times, a signature security event will lead one to believe that an armed security officer is what is needed. However, the reality is that an armed officer on property can lead to more tragic circumstances. Should the property or business need protection of assets of great value, then perhaps an armed officer is appropriate given the threat exposure. In nearly all other circumstances, allocating an unarmed security officer is the more prudent decision.

Remember that it is critical that security officers not be asked to perform tasks outside of the scope of  their security work. Should an accident occur during functions outside the contracted scope, liability may fall upon your business if the private security contractor does not have adequate insurance.

Carefully evaluate median pay levels for the region your business or property resides and make an effort to exceed those pay levels. Permitting your security contractor to procure security officers from the upper level of the professional candidate pool, such as former/retired law enforcement and military personnel, and those who carry extensive situational training and screening, will ultimately provide a very favorable impression to all involved and greatly contribute to the retention of quality individuals long-term. 

Ask each contractor for a their basic transition plan schedule and post start date plan for meetings with security personnel to discuss periodic issues or concerns. Without detailed planning for both, security officers will not likely meet your requirements before or after placement.

Understand that both security officers and remote video monitoring technology are both important. Replacing one with the other may not be the best way to protect your assets. A hybrid approach that combines security officers and CCTV surveillance serves in many cases as the most effective deterrent.

Work with your Security Contractor as a partner and protect their interests as well. Establish clear and detailed Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) in any service agreement that defines who, what and where the contractor is protecting. A fair and carefully worded agreement will not hold the security contractor responsible for claims related to third parties or for incidents in locations that are not clearly stated in your SOPs. To that end, remember that a security contractor is only providing security services for your business/property and employees, and not responsible for anyone else who comes onto the premises. Numerous court decisions have held private security contractors liable for injuries to persons the security contractor did not contemplate protecting. These claims occur on property with injuries to contractors, deliverymen, customers, guests and even the general public. Review any ambiguous contract language with your local insurance broker and attorney to make sure you are not exposing yourself to liability for which you are not properly insured. Also, make sure your insurance has all necessary coverage and endorsements required by the contract (Additional Insureds, Waiver of Subrogation, etc.). A security contractor will not and should not indemnify a customer for accidents caused solely by the negligence of the customer. A fair service agreement should clearly state the contracted firm will only be responsible if the negligence of one of its employees contributes to a claim.

Confirm that the preferred security contractor have extensive hiring procedures for security officers, including background checks, references, personal interviews and a requirement for prior security industry experience.

It is also important that each assigned security officer receive  at least 40 hours of training consisting of pre-assignment and on-the-job training, as well as a specific pre-determined outline and commitment to continued “in service” training. Extensive education and training will also help security officers understand and prevent potential lawsuits. “Litigation awareness” should focus on several components, including acting with professionalism and communicating respectfully and effectively. This type of education should cover how litigation works, teaching security officers what happens in a courtroom and how their words and actions can be used to affect a case. Further, understand that one type of training does not fit all. There needs to be situational training specific to the risks involved in any given industry. Look at the position needed for your property or business and establish clear training requirements for all assigned officers.