Hand In Hand: Security Officers Partner With Law Enforcement

Mar 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Loretta Woodward Veney


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The key difference between public law enforcement and private security is that law enforcement is a product of and serves the public sector, while private security organizations usually serve a small segment of the private sector. However, policing is the responsibility of both public and private police.

Here are four ways the public and private sectors can bridge the gap and strengthen communication to share responsibilities:

  1. Coordinate special projects between security and police

    There are many events and special projects on which the police and private security can team up and be effective. For example, the Washington D.C. area has four major universities. Area police departments work closely with the university police departments not only when criminal activities are occurring, but also when there are special events. Last March, the University of Maryland won the NCAA men's basketball championship. Several police agencies in Maryland worked closely with the University of Maryland Police Department to ensure that the celebration of the fans did not get out of hand. All the departments worked together to control the crowd. They worked together using lessons learned in the previous year when the University of Maryland lost in the NCAA Final Four game and the fans destroyed a great deal of property near the campus. There was a lot of negative publicity surrounding that event, and the public who lived near the campus was furious.

    The Washington D.C. Police Department also partners with George Washington University (GWU) Police Department. On several occasions, the D.C. police have used the GWU police personnel to help them cover the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank meetings since the World Bank is just steps from the GWU campus. The two departments met for months prior to the meetings to plan every detail of the several-day event to ensure they were ready for protestors. Coordination between the two departments worked well and has set the stage for successful partnerships for the future.

  2. Sharing local criminal statistical data

    Law enforcement can greatly help private security by providing statistics on crimes occurring near their facilities. This data could help provide justification for security budget item requests, including barriers, fencing and cameras. By working with the police, security managers can gain valuable knowledge in crime prevention and control. The police should sit down with security executives to explain trends in crime in their areas so companies can be on alert for potential trouble.

    Private security managers can help the police by reporting crimes that occur within their facilities so they can be added to crime statistics, ensuring the accuracy. This is rarely done on a consistent basis. Sometimes the police are only called if the theft is very large, or if an assault is particularly serious.

    Establishing a relationship with police may be as simple as a security manager reaching out to the police department in their area and inviting them to look at what they do. Security managers should invite the police in for a tour and briefing on the company. Sharing the security department's and company's missions with police will result in a better understanding of what their goals and objectives are. A good example of this is one large corporation in Bethesda, Md., where the security manager hosted a lunch for the county police. At the lunch, the police discussed crimes occurring in the area, and the security manager shared some internal theft challenges the company was experiencing. The police provided good suggestions for the security manager on how to conquer the theft problem. The better the relationship companies have with the police, the more likely the police will respond quickly to the company in the event of an emergency. Several months after meeting with the police, the same security manager had a potential workplace violence incident. When the police were called, they didn't walk into the situation blind. They had been in the facility for the tour and knew about the layout and escape routes. The situation was resolved without incident. That speed of response by the police would probably not have happened had a previous relationship not been established. Once a relationship has begun, continuing the relationship is important. Many police and private security organizations meet monthly to discuss issues such as traffic, thefts, accidents and other issues they have in common. This will build a professional bond, and go a long way to getting accurate data on the crimes that are occurring.

  3. Coordinate on major investigations

    Some investigations require the teamwork of law enforcement and private security. When criminal acts occur within the walls of private companies, many times the security managers are reluctant to notify the police. Companies are so protective of their reputations that they don't want any bad information getting out about their employees and the crimes they may have committed. When investigations get complex, outside help may be needed from police departments who are used to handling these type of situations.

    At American University in Washington, D.C., university officials recently asked the D.C. Police to come in and investigate a suspected drug ring that was operating in the dormitories on campus. The university police department felt they did not have the skills or the tools necessary to solve the problem. As a result of a several-month-long police investigation, more than 20 students were arrested and expelled.

  4. Share information on potential criminal attacks

    If a company is experiencing layoffs and expects there to be trouble from a few people, the police should be notified in advance of the date and time of the impending layoffs so they can be on standby as needed. The same is true for potential workplace violence incidents. If an employee has made threats to co-workers or supervisors, the police should be notified and given the details of the situation. This is especially helpful for small companies that do not have security or legal people on-site who can direct them in these situations. When devastating incidents can be avoided, both police and private security personnel look like heroes. It doesn't matter who gets the credit, it matters that the situation was resolved without tragedy.

Since Sept. 11, private security and law enforcement have communicated more than ever before regarding threats of attack. Company senior executives are repeatedly pressing their security directors for information about threats. For example, in April 2003, a bomb threat was called in for all banks in the Northeast. The FBI left it up to individual banks if they wanted to close. Many bank presidents were calling their security managers and asking them what to do. If the bank security managers had law enforcement contacts, they in turn were calling them for advice. Some banks closed in the Washington area while others did not. Although the threat ended up being a hoax, police and private security need to network and communicate in emergencies.

For the future, many things can be done to continue the liaison between security and law enforcement. For example, security professionals can join and attend law enforcement association meetings, and can attend local alliance meetings between security and law enforcement.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The preceding column was written by Loretta Woodward Veney, CPP, for the Professional Security Training Network, a subsidiary of PRIMEDIA Workplace Learning. Veney is the owner of Superior Training Solutions, Clinton, Md. She is a member of ASIS International and serves on the Board of Directors.

For 15 years, PRIMEDIA Workplace Learning has offered integration of resources including critical-skills training, proven training methods based on expert industry-specific content, “anytime / anywhere” delivery, and service and support. Behind the PWPL tradition is the strength of PRIMEDIA Inc., the world's largest targeted media company.


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