Building a Better Officer: New Ways to Decrease Turnover and Increase Efficiency

Intermediate patrols offer another option to sworn, armed officers and nonsworn, unarmed officers.

What Burns Out Officers

There’s no mystery about it, security jobs come with personal risk. A recent spate of stabbings on hospital and school campuses has changed the language of planning for violent attacks from “active shooter response” to “urgent response.” While these types of attacks statistically are rare, unarmed officers do face armed attacks. Even with all the pieces in place for protecting a campus, the most essential piece is still human. A Michigan State University study concluded, “Many states still lack any training standards – meaning security guards must learn on the job if their company doesn’t provide training – while some states do not require any minimum education or even a criminal background check for guards.”

Ideally, the campus will have enacted training scenarios on a well-documented response plan, including emphasis on the role of the nonsworn campus security officer. That role is not to apprehend and detain an aggressor. A nonsworn officer should be capable of calling for assistance and immediately taking action that will delay and deter an attack on others while law enforcement arrives.

Because campuses may be located in or adjacent to high crime areas, the risk assessment should extend beyond the campus. Employees, students, visitors and patients may have to traverse areas with more known crime – such as parking garages – to reach their destination. In a healthcare setting, guards may be one part safety patrol and one part customer service, both keeping the peace and helping people who arrive distressed and in need of attention. They also are the front-line defense against people who are there to conduct illegal business such as stealing cars, dealing drug, and committing assaults.

Add in the potential for violence in an environment that is already stacked with vulnerabilities, and the role of the campus security officer demands more control than the average duty belt provides.

Burnout and the Duty Belt

If there is one notion that holds the security industry back from breaking out of its own stereotypes, it’s the false choice between unarmed and armed, and all the assumptions that follow. That’s a discussion that takes us to the duty belt.

Which tools to place on a guard’s duty belt can be a fiery topic. Is the belt carrying more than you need, or less than you want? Does it have too much force or too little defensive capability? All of which lead to risk and liability for the security provider and the client. Besides his own swagger, the only thing between a guard and a potentially bad incident outcome is the duty belt. Without the right tools, this can create a desperate situation, especially for a lone guard on foot patrol with responsibility for acres of campus and hundreds of lives.

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