Better Security Officers

Security officers are minimum wage workers.  Their typically lower pay is often cited as a reason for high attrition rates and the unfortunate, sometimes disparaging impression that security officers are not up to snuff.

Look at other minimum wage workers:  dishwashers, cashiers, fast food preppers, janitors or product demonstrators to name a random grouping.  In each case, it is fairly easy to assess whether or not the employee is doing a good job, and even how good a job.  Dishwasher – the plate is clean or it’s not, little breakage.  Cashier – the cash box balances at the end of the shift.  Fast Food – the burgers are cooked per protocol.  Janitor – the place is clean and supplies replenished.  Product Demonstrator – the samples were taken by passersby.  There are both qualitative and quantitative measures for how well these workers are fulfilling their roles.

But how do we judge that a security officer is doing a good job at mitigating threat and securing a location?  If nothing has been stolen or blown up and no one has been attacked or kidnapped then, should the client be content and at ease? And, given that scenario, should we assume the security officer was on the ball?

If the only measure of how well security is functioning is the absence of an event or attack, then we know next to nothing.

Security officer performance, which in so many cases is the primary component of a given security system, can be improved in a few ways.  It breaks down into who is hired, how they are trained, solid protocols and frequent testing.  Let’s look here at the first topic – recruitment.

Qualifications one should look for in a security officer are a mix of cognitive and physical. It’s important that an officer be able to stand all day and walk at least a couple miles without resting and for that matter be able to sprint (be able to make chase) without getting winded.  A decent command of language is important because communication with the public, employees and the client is critical to the job.  A calm and balanced demeanor is also important for among other things, deescalating stressful hot moments.  You want a peacemaker not a fighter.  The officer should be able to make a cognitive assessment.  He sees something suspicious which could present a threat and then needs to engage, ask the right questions and ultimately make an independent decision.

Productivity isn’t a word one necessarily associates with the service-oriented work of a security officer whose role may seem to many people as sedentary and quiet.  Nothing tangible is being produced or sold.  Under these circumstances, it can be hard to maintain focus and enthusiasm.  However, when a security officer has a clear and meaningful mission that requires active engagement, it can make a huge difference in attitude and performance.  When the job shifts from responsive to proactive, the officer has to be more engaged.  He is not waiting for something to happen, or not happen.  He is instead actively surveying the secured environment, looking for suspicion and determining whether or not a threat has potential for being realized.  This is the kind of officer who isn’t fishing, he’s hunting.

Clients who use a third party security company to supply officers might think they have no say in who arrives to fill a post.  Getting the best out of your security company can – it’s true – be a challenge.  Physical security companies are essentially manpower agencies who need to keep spots filled.  Nonetheless, clients have a voice if they know what they want and are assertive about letting their standards and criteria be known.


  1. JIM on November 7, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Very true comment.

  2. Doug on November 7, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Sounds like a good course.

  3. David M on November 7, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Great article that brings up more questions.
    Assuming we “get what we pay for” in a minimum wage officer what should we “expect to get” when we pay more? What does that “better” officer look like and how much more should we pay for them? Where do you draw the line as to what is too much for a budget yet “sufficient” for the institution’s needs?
    Looking forward to Parts II, III, and IV of this article! 🙂

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