The Private Security Industry Act 2001 and the security management gap in the United Kingdom

The Private Security Industry Act 2001 and the security management gap in the United Kingdom

Button, Mark

Security Journal24.2 (Apr 2011): 118-132.

Abstract (summary)

The passing of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 introduced regulation to much of the private security industry in England and Wales. This legislation has, however, only provided partial regulation, with several areas of the private security industry subject to no or limited control. This article examines the gaps in the regulation of those who manage security departments and companies. It illustrates some of the weaknesses in not fully regulating the management of security and how this gap may have implications for the ultimate success of the legislation in transforming this sector, particularly in failing to change the culture of the security industry. The article concludes with a model for regulating security managers, which could be used to enhance the UK regulatory system, but which could also be utilised in other jurisdictions where there is no or minimal regulation of security managers. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

Full Text


The expansion in size and role of the private security industry in policing in recent years has become well documented by researchers (Shearing and Stenning, 1987; Loader, 1996; Jones and Newburn, 1998; Wakefield, 2003; Crawford et al , 2005; Sarre and Prenzler, 2005 and Sarre and Prenzler, 2009). This has provoked many debates, one of the most significant of which has concerned the regulation and governance of private security (Jones and Newburn, 1998; Prenzler and Sarre, 1999; Stenning, 2000; Johnston and Shearing, 2003; Button and George, 2006; Zedner, 2006 and Loader and Walker, 2007). Calls for greater statutory controls in the United Kingdom reached a climax during the 1990s. This was largely because of the then rapid expansion of the industry, particularly patrols of public areas; exposes of criminal involvement; excessive violence in the night-time economy perpetrated by door supervisors and generally poor standards of performance (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 1995; Police Foundation and Policy Studies Institute, 1996; Lister et al , 2000; Sharp and Wilson, 2000 and Hobbs et al , 2003). These culminated in the Private Security Industry Act (PSIA) 2001, which set up the framework for control of the industry. During the 2000s the debate has moved on to the limitations of the system introduced; alongside the efficiency of the regulator in implementing the legislation (Zedner, 2006; Button, 2007a, 2008; Jones, 2007 and National Audit Office, 2008).

There is, however, one aspect of the discussion over the regulatory structures that has received relatively little attention, which in the author’s view, is one of the most critical factors for achieving some of the aims of the legislation. Security managers either employed to manage security staff in security firms or as specialists employed by non-security bodies overseeing and managing security staff who protect their organisation have been largely excluded from licensing and/or the competency-raising framework of the legislation. This is a major gap and impediment to raising the overall standards of the industry, as well as an omission in creating a truly accountable private security industry. It is this gap, which will be the focus of this article. This is also a common gap in many other jurisdictions with no or limited licensing requirements on managers and as such many of the arguments apply to them too (see Cunningham et al , 1990; Prenzler and Sarre, 1999; Button, 2007a and Sarre and Prenzler, 2009).

This article will start by exploring some of the rationale for the legislation before outlining the main provisions introduced. It will briefly outline some of the general limitations of the legislation before engaging in a much more critical analysis of the gaps that have emerged relating to security managers. Some of the traits and quality issues concerning security management will then be assessed, before moving on to examine the importance of seeking to change security managers as a basis of cultural and organisational change in the private security industry. The article will end with proposals for closing this gap in regulation, which also has relevance for many other jurisdictions where security managers have little or no additional licensing requirements.

Transforming the Private Security Industry

In May 2001, the PSIA received its Royal Assent. This set the statutory framework for regulation of the private security industry in England and Wales (which has subsequently expanded to Scotland and Northern Ireland). The legislation was enacted as part of the Labour Government’s broader strategy to reduce crime and disorder, to remove criminals from the private security industry and to raise the standards of the industry. As Charles Clarke MP, the Minister of State at the Home Office, when presenting the Bill for first reading, stated,

This bill forms part of the government’s commitment to reducing crime and disorder. It introduces statutory regulation to the private security industry to drive out criminals and drive up standards. It will assist the building of important crime reduction partnerships between police, the private security industry and others. ( Hansard , 28 March 2001, col. 967)

Central to these objectives has been a desire to improve the credibility of the industry to enable stronger partnerships to be formed between the public and private sectors, as well as increase the extent of private sector involvement in the criminal justice system (Home Office, 1999, 2001). Such partnerships have been promoted further with the Police Reform Act 2002, which enables further contracting out of police functions to the private sector, and most significantly, for private security to be given special powers in return for compliance with police-led accreditation schemes. 1

It was clear from the statement of Charles Clarke that the government sought significant changes in the private security industry, with a major increase in its performance. This was to be echoed and expanded upon by the first significant office holders of the body established to implement regulation, the Security Industry Authority (SIA). The first Chair, Molly Meacher, outlined her interest in European, and particularly Swedish, regulatory models in informing the development of the new regulatory structures. As she stated,

We are very interested in Europe. Most interesting to us is Sweden. That’s why we are going there later this month, because they seem to have quite a radical regulatory system similar to what we are trying to do in Britain. We are trying to learn how others have gone through the problems we are currently struggling with. (Professional Security, 2002)

In the SIA’s first Corporate and Business Plan, 2003-2006, John Saunders, the then Chief Executive, made clear his vision for the SIA in implementing the Act:

Perhaps the Act’s most important contribution is that it provides sound foundations for introducing fundamental changes, creating a private security industry that is healthier, more successful, dynamic and fit to pursue new market opportunities. Above all, an industry that is respected and proud of its reputation. (cited in SIA, 2003, p. 7)

And the second Chair of the SIA, Peter Hermitage, was also clear in what was needed:

… nothing less than transformation of the industry – eradicating criminality, increasing professionalism and skills, improving career paths and employment prospects, providing reassurance for security users and for the wider public. (SIA, 2003, p. 2)

With only 7 years since the passage of the legislation and such a large and complicated industry to transform, it would be unfair to expect major improvements so quickly. However, one would expect structures to have been set in place that will yield results in the medium to longer term. As the following sections will reveal, there are significant gaps in the foundations that have been laid, the most significant of which is the regulation of security managers. Before this is considered it would be useful to set out the main provisions of the PSIA and some of the general criticisms that have been made so far.

The PSIA 2001

The legislation established a new non-departmental public body (NDPB) (or quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation (quango)) called the SIA (Button, 2003).2 The SIA has a wide range of functions, but the most important relate to the licensing of individuals operating in sectors in the private security industry subject to regulation. As the legislation stands, this includes:

door supervisors (contract and in-house);

vehicle immobilizers (contract and in-house);

security officers (contract);

close protection officers (contract);

keyholders (contract);

public space surveillance (CCTV) (contract);

private investigators (contract) (not yet implemented);

security consultants (contract) (not yet implemented).

Licences for frontline staff are based upon an identity check, a criminal records’ check and a competency requirement (for further information on the requirements including the standard of character, see SIA, 2007). These standards vary for different types of licences. In these designated sectors, licences are required for all employees from the most junior to most senior. The legislation did not introduce the compulsory licensing of firms; instead it created a voluntary scheme (approved contractors), although again there is scope to make it compulsory under secondary legislation. The legislation gave a great deal of discretion to the Home Secretary, the Chief Executive and the Chair (and Board) of the SIA in creating the actual standards and in the ability to create secondary regulation.

There are a number of general weaknesses in the regulatory system that has been created and that have been identified. Briefly, these are set out below (for a more detailed critique, see Zedner, 2006; Button, 2007a, 2008; National Audit Office, 2008; Panorama, 2008 and SIA, 2008).

Ambitions and mentality of regulation : Concerns have been raised on the standards created by the SIA, which have critics claim that have been built on the already existing voluntary standards, which are considered by many to be too low and have not stretched the industry. Concerns have also been raised of how close the SIA is to certain sections of the private security industry and that it may have been ‘captured’ by the major interest groups.

Training : The standards of training have been criticised as not adequate. The 3-day classroom and one on the job mandated for security officers is minimal when compared to many EU countries and adds only 1 extra day on the pre-regulation voluntary standard. Criticism has also been made of the administration of the examinations where training providers can administer their own tests, creating potential conflicts of interest.

Voluntary Approved Contractors Scheme : Firms do not have to be ‘approved’; it is purely a voluntary measure.

In-house security officers : A major part of the security industry is still exempt, as in-house officers do not need to be regulated.

Costs and bureaucracy : There has been criticism of the costs of a licence, the length of time it takes for the SIA to process them, the overall costs of the SIA and failure itself to do what it expects those it is regulating to do (vetting of its own staff for example).

Loopholes : Some loopholes have been exploited such as criminals who would not be entitled to run a security company becoming ‘security consultants’ where no licence is currently required.

One gap that has received relatively little attention, however, is the licensing requirements for managers. There are, very broadly, three types of managers of security. Security companies supplying security services employ managers. G4S, the largest company in the United Kingdom, employs hundreds of managers in different positions to manage its substantial force of security officers (G4S, 2009). Those operating in the designated sectors where regulation is in force require licences. If they perform frontline duties, they need to undergo the same training as the category of licence they manage and if not, they require a non-frontline licence. For the purposes of clarity, these can be called ‘contractor security managers’. These managers, nevertheless, are not subject to any additional training requirement under the licensing regime, either as frontline or non-frontline licence holders.

The second type of security manager is employed by non-security organisations, such as ordinary companies, local authorities, hospitals, shopping centres and so on, to manage or advise on security. The specialist security managers undertake a wide range of different functions and are often given a variety of job titles (George and Button, 2000). For example, some are given functions more related to ‘advising’ an organisation on security, compared to some where they manage the security of the body (George and Button, 2000). Some may also take on wider functions, such as safety, risk, cleaning and facilities management. The most common names used are ‘security manager’, ‘security advisor’, ‘loss control manager’ and ‘protection manager’. For most organisations this type of specialist is employed in-house, although a very small number are contract. For the purposes of clarity, these can be called ‘security specialists’ (for ease of clarity, throughout this article, security managers will refer to both these and contractor security managers).

Many SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and even some large organisations, however, do not actually employ a ‘security specialist’. In these, a general manager, facilities manager and a personnel manager might have responsibility for security as part of a wider range of functions and it is bought in, where specific expertise is required. These are the third type of managers of security. For ease of clarity, these can be called ‘general managers’.

The licensing arrangements for the latter two ‘security specialists’ and ‘general managers’ are muddled and potentially open to loopholes. For example, if the ‘security specialist’ or ‘general manager’ manages or supervises licensed staff (but does not engage in frontline activities), they require a non-frontline licence, which is issued in the form of a letter. If they do engage in frontline activities and if they operate in the sectors subject to additional controls (door supervisors and vehicle immobilisers), they would require a frontline licence, but in the other designated sectors, unless they are employed under contract, they would not require a frontline licence, only the non-frontline (SIA, 2007, p. 6). If only directions are given on behalf of someone else, this becomes much murkier. The SIA guidance states that if the person gives,

… directions to a licensable individual on the customer’s behalf, you are not considered a manager or supervisor of that person. In addition, if you are engaged by the firm providing the security services, to give directions only, you are not required to be licensed. (SIA, 2007: p. 8)

This will no doubt fuel much legal activity in the future over what constitutes ‘directions’, ‘management’, ‘supervision’ and so on. This is an issue that will be returned to later in this article. The more important issue, however, is that a ‘non-frontline’ licence does not require a competency element. This might be acceptable if there were voluntary arrangements in place, which meant that most in these positions are suitably qualified through education and training. As the following section will reveal, this is not generally the case and most significantly, failing to enhance the quality of security managers by some form of competency requirement and changing their mentalities is missing one of the most important elements in succeeding in organisational and cultural change – changing the managers and leaders (Williams et al , 1993; Schein, 2004 and McKenna, 2006).

The State of Security Management in the United Kingdom

There is a common perception that security managers are former police officers or ex-servicemen in the United Kingdom as well as in many other countries (Whiting and Cavanagh, 2003; Briggs, and Edwards, 2006 and Gill et al , 2007). Unfortunately, there has not been much recent research to quantify this, which seems strange when the growing research on security officers is examined and managers in the related area of the public police (see Reiner, 1991; Michael, 2002; Wakefield, 2003; Long, 2003 and Button, 2007b). The most recent research in the United Kingdom carried out by Hearnden (1993, 1995) found that 76 and 61 per cent by 1993 were recruited from a military or police background in 1991. If the research was conducted today, it would probably show a dominance of the military and police, but probably not to the same extent. If the United Kingdom is similar to the United States, more recent research in the United States found only 29 per cent of security managers are not coming from a military, police or intelligence background illustrating that the dominance is still strong (Whiting and Cavanagh, 2003). Given that security management is often a second career, it is no surprise to discover the average age found by Hearnden (1995) was 50.2 years. Hearnden (1993) also discovered some negative orientations concerning training and education. Of the surveyed security managers, he found:

62 per cent had no vocational qualifications and managers rated the possession of them as the fourth least important attribute of a good security manager;

38 per cent had not attended in the previous 2 years at least one outside course or seminar;

59 per cent worked for organisations, which had no formal training needs analysis;

40 per cent were unable or unwilling to identify a single personal training requirement.

Again, one must stress that the research is dated, and since it was published, there has been an expansion in higher education related to security. Nevertheless there are still many working in the industry as a second career after the military or police to supplement their pensions. In many areas, self-perpetuating ex-military and ex-police appoint subordinates and successors from the same background as themselves.

Clearly, there are benefits from the skills, experience and networks that ex-service and police personnel bring to the security industry, but the second career mentality does have some negative consequences. It may influence many manager’s orientation, as the job is a supplement and it is something many have achieved through their experience rather than qualifications. For some, there is little incentive or desire for further training and education. When security management is juxtaposed against other managerial specialisms, such as personnel, safety, risk and so on, these are dominated by people who have made it a first choice career, who are in it for the long haul and as a consequence are prepared to invest time in securing the appropriate development through training and education to achieve their position.

Perhaps another illustration of the lack of commitment to training and education among many managers are the limited learning routes into security management. Training and educational achievement are of marginal importance in the broader security occupation. There is no recognised industry benchmark qualification for entrance and there are only a limited number of higher education courses provided by the universities when compared to related specialisms, such as safety and computer security (Button, 2008). This is beginning to change with the Security Institute (the main professional association in the United Kingdom) launching a certificate and diploma in security management aimed as entry-level awards for security managers. It remains to be seen, however, to what extent these will become the currency of entrance to managerial positions in the security industry.

The status of security management can also be juxtaposed to some of the other managerial specialisms in organisations. If human resource (or personnel), health and safety, facilities, purchasing, marketing, public relations, accounting, risk, quality and, of course, security, to name the most popular, are considered, all of these functions have sought to pursue ‘professional projects’ to ultimately enhance their status and effectiveness. In doing so, however, their success has been very different and security management has been lagging in achieving ‘professional’ status. A good indicator of an occupation becoming a ‘profession’ is the representative body receiving ‘Chartered Status’. ‘Royal Charters’, which have been granted since the thirteenth century, are now conferred by the sovereign on advice of the privy council, ‘for bodies that work in the public interest (such as professional institutions and charities) and which can demonstrate pre-eminence, stability and permanence in their particular field’ (Privy Council Office, nd). All of the specialisms bar facilities, risk and, of course, security have received Royal Charters (see Table 1 (See PDF) ). Facilities and risk also have much more established bodies with larger memberships, an established suite of qualifications (and accreditations of other vocational and higher education courses) for entrance to the industry and as such are much further down the road to a profession and a chartered status.

Quality of security managers

There is not a great deal of research to assess the quality of security management, but there is a degree of anecdotal evidence. In a study of the value of security, Gill et al (2007) found some damning criticisms of security management as well as some very good and outstanding practice. It is worth repeating verbatim some of the comments they recorded that demonstrate some of the more negative attributes. One interviewee stated,

… most senior security people are just plain thick. Many cannot write basic policy or process, as much as they may understand what needs to be achieved and they cannot articulate a business case. (in, Gill et al , 2007, p. 52)

Another interviewee in their study stated,

From police and military I have seen a few who are good and there has been a missing of significant opportunities for business. Especially the ex military, they are like kids with no organisational awareness. Their people skills and ability to understand cultures of business are lacking because they have not grown up in a business environment. In something like nuclear work then a military background maybe important. The greater the competitive environment in which a company participates the less easy it is to appoint someone from a military background. There needs to be the most effective cultural fit. (in Gill et al , 2007, p. 52)

Evidence has also been found of some security managers lacking knowledge and understanding of how to prevent problems from occurring and been too reactive. As Challinger (2006) argues,

Some security decisions appear to be made after a breach of security has occurred. Some are made when it is simplistically assumed that continued security is no longer needed. Some are made when it is feared that business will be lost if security is not in place to reassure customer. (p. 586)

Challinger also goes on to argue that many decisions made in security are not based upon evidence. In the well-established professions such as medicine, a doctor will, in theory, prescribe a treatment or advice on preventative measures that are based upon scientific evidence and will also no doubt keep up-to-date on the latest advances through reading appropriate journals and attending conferences.

Perhaps another good illustration of the quality of some security managers is their influence in the boardroom. As Garcia (2006) argues,

A common theme of customers of security professionals alike is that the business for security must be made in order to acquire the resources necessary to protect assets. It is agreed that this is a necessary step, but there appears to be a lack of preparation by many security professionals in making this case, particularly compared to their peers in other divisions across the enterprise. (pp. 513-514)

There are many challenges to getting security taken seriously in the boardroom. To many boards, it is not considered a priority and security is not integrated into the broader strategies (Challinger, 2006). Some consider security is not a problem because they wrongly believe that there are no problems of staff theft, fraud or comparable incidents. Some boards actually consider security a nuisance, getting in the way of the core business and creating bureaucracy. Worse, some boards might even consider security is the enemy harassing ‘honest’ staff. There are some evidence that boards in larger companies are starting to take crime risks more seriously after 9/11 (Levi et al , 2003). Therefore, the skills required by a security manager need to include the ability to persuade board managers by talking their language and fitting their agendas. Unfortunately, for many organisations, there is a belief that anyone can do security (Challinger, 2006).

These quality issues, it could be argued, are problems for the employers of security managers to grapple with, rather than for the state to intervene with minimum standards. If organisations wish to hire security managers who possess no security qualifications, cannot speak the language of business, do not know how to prevent crimes and cannot influence the board, that is their prerogative. This argument in the author’s view is only partly acceptable. As the following section will show, there are positive reasons for intervening to mandate standards for security managers in achieving the original aims of the legislation alongside plain governance issues. It is also possible to create structures that set minimum standards, beyond which the sector itself can work to create more ambitious voluntary standards.

Cultural Stasis in the Private Security Industry

The changes sought with the passage of the PSIA require nothing less than a fundamental change in the ‘way things are done’, which amounts to a fundamental cultural change. The values, attitudes, aspirations and working practices – to name some of the most important – all needed to transform, if the industry is to do so as well. Cultural and organisational change has been the subject of a huge amount of research. Setting aside the ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ methods of change briefly, what is clear in this research is the importance of leaders and managers in the change process (Williams et al , 1993 and Schein, 2004). Managers and leaders as promoters of change, holders of resources and role models among many other functions possess many of the ‘tools’ necessary to engender change. It is very unlikely that the culture of ‘contractor security managers’ and ‘security specialists’ will have changed as a result of the requirements the SIA has so far established, and as a consequence, it has neglected one of the most important building blocks to transformation of the industry. In the related sector of the public police where there have been many more attempts to change culture, reforms would not have been contemplated without bringing managers and leaders into the process as well as the frontline staff. The transformation of security managers is central to successfully changing the security industry (Briggs and Edwards, 2006).

The security managers are also very important role models, and by failing to extend competency standards to them, this sends out the wrong messages to those at the bottom of organisations. By ignoring standards for managers, it is sending out a message of the lack of importance of training and education to a sector where such views are already prevalent. It is interesting to juxtapose the introduction of regulation in the private security industry generally in the United Kingdom, with regulation of healthcare security in the National Health Service (NHS). Here, there was a conscious decision to introduce standards for managers in all NHS trusts in the first place where every NHS trust must employ an ASMS (accredited security management specialist) who has undergone a basic training course. Under this scheme, they must complete a training course that lasts about 5 weeks and equates to Level 3/4 on National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and 40 Level C credits towards the first year of an undergraduate degree. These specialists also provide a network for the NHS to seek to further instigate change (Department of Health, 2003).

Earlier discussion alluded to the ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ methods of cultural and organisational change. In police services, in some countries, there have been major initiatives of cultural change. Some have argued that traditional ‘top-down’ approaches have not succeeded and a wider range of strategies need to be pursued, including ‘bottom-up’ driven from recruitment and training onwards (Chan, 1999). The SIA has focused much of its attention on changing from the ‘bottom-up’. The most effective change is bound to require this as part of the strategy too. However, the SIA, in seeking a bottom-up transformation, in an industry where labour turnover is so high, limits the potential success of this type of strategy. In 2007, Infologue estimated that the annual labour turnover was 28 per cent (Infologue, 2008). Even a large and successful security company as Securitas experienced labour turnover of 38 per cent across its European companies during the first 6 months of 2008 (Securitas, 2008). There are frequent reports of much higher rates (Michael, 2002 and Button, 2007a). Even with a 28 per cent turnover, almost a third of the workforce is disappearing every year and as Schein (1992, p. 15) argues, ‘… a group having either a great deal of turnover of members and leaders or a history without challenging events may well lack any shared assumptions.’ The limited changes the SIA are seeking to instill are dissipated by the labour churn.

Governance Gap

Even if one is not convinced of the importance of raising the standards of security managers to improve the private security industry there is a plain accountability argument. Earlier, in this article, the confusing situation concerning non-frontline licences was highlighted. Contract (and therefore licensed) security officers are frequently either under de facto or de jure line management control of the ‘security specialist’ (who may or may not hold a non-frontline licence according to their role in management and supervision) (Wakefield, 2003 and Button, 2007b). There is, therefore – although unlikely – a theoretical possibility of a ‘security specialist’ with no licence having a degree of power over licensed security officers, who may possess a character that would not enable a licence to be granted.

The most serious concern, however, is the competence issue. Even if a ‘contractor security manager’, ‘security specialist’ or ‘general manager’ possess a non-frontline licence, they could be managing and directing contract security officers in issues in which they have not been trained, but their contract security officers have. Scenarios could arise where a manager directs staff to engage in physical confrontations and exercise legal tools for which they may have less up-to-date knowledge than their staff. A hypothetical but common scenario might illustrate this further.

Shopping centres and retail outlets often utilise contract security officers who are frequently managed by in-house security managers. Let us assume the retailer has employed an ex-military officer as a security manager, who has undergone no specialist security management training and education (as is common). In the first few weeks, the manager is patrolling with a group of licensed and contract officers when they encounter a group of drunken and rowdy men who make insulting remarks towards them. There are many potential courses of action that the security team could take and the incident could have the potential to turn violent. In such a situation, the security officers would almost certainly look to the manager for leadership. Yet, the security officers will have received more training than the manager. If the manager decides upon a course of action that is not appropriate, or even worse and illegal, because of the power relationship, it may be difficult for the security officers not to go along with it. These scenarios also take place with ‘general managers’ of security where they may go on patrol with licensed staff as has been seen with research on Pleasure Southquay conducted by the author (the name given to the shopping and leisure complex researched) (Button, 2007b). This illustrates the importance that the three types of security managers should also have undergone minimum standards of training and preferably to a higher level than those they manage.

A Model for Change

It is clear from the evidence presented so far that mandatory minimum training and education standards for security managers are required. However, a very important question is how far should these standards go? Should they be restricted to a relatively low entry-level course or should much more ambitious standards be mandated? This article will argue for the former alongside the other measures to enhance the training and education of security managers.

The example of the NHS was discussed earlier, where regulation has began with minimum standards of training for security managers. As a mandatory requirement, this level of training should be obligatory (or equivalent through accredited prior or experiential learning) for a security manager (that is, the contractor security managers and security specialists). This should be the foundation that then provides for a ladder of higher levels of training that are voluntary for the manager to achieve. Awards already in existence, such as the SyI Certificate and Diploma, and ASIS’s Certified Protection Professional (CPP) could also be used.

The ex-forces and police background of many in the private security industry make for a very status-driven sector where hierarchy is very important. Many of those working in the private security industry crave for status that distinguishes them from others. Climbing up the equivalent of military or police ranks in the security industry is something which would be considered as appropriate and attractive to many. This provides opportunities for enhancing the status of security management without having to mandate compulsory standards. 3 If the SIAs were to create additional managerial licence categories built upon higher training and education, voluntary licenses would begin to act as ranks in the private security industry with an incentive to achieve in order to secure that status. So, for instance, the basic compulsory course might lead to a plain ‘security manager’ licence, but for additional approved study through vocational or higher education, the SIA might create ‘advanced security manager’ or ‘senior security manager’ licences. These would soon become badges of status and would additionally enable recruiters and clients of security to further judge quality by the licence held or the number of different types in an organisation.

There is also the more complicated issue of what to do about the ‘general managers’ of security? Where these currently require a non-frontline licence there should also be a competency requirement to their licence. This should cover most of the competencies of those that they manage as well as setting out their responsibilities, in particular, what they can and cannot do with their current licence status. It could also be used to provide an understanding of the challenges and best practice in procuring security as well as to provide the basis for a national network of contacts on security in different organisations. This would further aid partnership building in the industry if every organisation that employs security has a contact trained in certain basic procedures and protocols. It is also important for achieving lasting cultural change that this group is also properly regulated. The new structure for managers would then resemble Figure 1 – See PDF,.

The pyramid shows the base where ‘general managers’ would undergo a compulsory basic training programme (this would only be a few days). These managers would also provide a clear network for the state security services to utilise in receiving intelligence as well as disseminating best practice and intelligence. Then, there would be ‘contractor security managers’ and ‘security specialists’ who would need to undergo a more extensive training course (or demonstrate the equivalent through accreditation or experiential learning), which is at least Level 3 on the NQF. Above these would be voluntary higher-level courses, which on completion would entitle the person to a higher-ranking licence. Specialist licences could also be created for particular areas, such as retail, aviation, university and so on. Given the structural trait of large numbers of ex-military/police/intelligence in many other countries and the importance of status, this is a model that could be utilised elsewhere.


There have been substantial changes concerning the debate over regulation of private security in many countries during the last decade. Some have come in from the cold of ‘non-intervention’ to regulate private security, such as the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Greece (Button, 2007a). Other countries in Europe; states, territories and provinces in the United States, Australia and Canada, with longer experience of regulation, have reformed systems that had proved inadequate (Prenzler and Sarre, 1999; Hemmens et al , 2001; Hyde, 2003). Much of the debate and concern tends to focus upon the ‘ground troops’, the security officers, door supervisors, wheel clampers, private investigators and so on, and very little on the ‘officers’ or the managers of them. Given that most regulatory systems usually have aims that include to substantially improve the private security industry, it seems strange that the leaders and managers are so frequently neglected when they are so central to cultural changes, and where there is a lot of evidence, some lack the mentality and skills necessary for positive cultural changes to occur. This article identified a model for closing some of these gaps and contributing to achieving some of the original aims of the UK legislation, and has largely focused on the United Kingdom, but there is evidence that it is not alone in this security management gap. Therefore, the model proposed in this article has relevance beyond the shores of the United Kingdom.


[a] Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth, 141 High Street, PO1 2HY, Portsmouth, UK. E-mail:


1 Under the scheme, those groups of security (that is, a shopping centre, housing estate, hospital and so on) or related staff such as wardens contributing to community safety can apply to their chief constable for accreditation. Those who are successful in meeting the standard set can wear a nationally recognised badge and may be given special powers, such as powers to issue fixed penalty notices (for disorder, truancy, cycling on a footpath, dog fouling and graffiti, littering to name most), to require a name and address, to confiscate alcohol and tobacco, to stop a cycle, to photograph a person and to name some of the most important. For further information, see Home Office (2008).

2 NDPBs or quangos are set up by the Government as arm’s length bodies, with a degree of independence to carry out functions for the government, such as the delivery of services, regulation and provision of advice.

3 I have advocated similar proposals for security officers where different ranks of security officer could be created, which on completion of the training to achieve them would entitle the officer to wear special badges (Button, 2008).


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