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How you can make private security partners a big police asset

ILEETA presenter explains why not tapping into information from private security personnel is like leaving money on the table

There’s no denying that there are private security people who have absolutely no business being in any way involved in your law enforcement efforts. But if you choose your private security partners wisely and well, they can be a tremendous force multiplier.

If you’re careful and strategic about the partnerships you build, you will gain access to individuals who are trained observers, you will have the opportunity to tap into vast amounts of information and databases kept by private security companies, and you will have engaged community stakeholders is the basic functions of community policing and directed criminal interdiction.

During ILEETA 2014, Andre Queen — a Former Deputy Chief with the Illinois Auxiliary Police Reserve and currently the President of a Chicago-based private security company — gave an excellent presentation on how agencies might maximize the available resources represented by local private security entities.

Being Selective and Strategic
It all begins with proper selection and screening of potential members of the group. Ideally, you will be able to identify what Queen called “bridge members.”

“You want to identify folks who are security directors and managers who are also former law enforcement,” Queen said.

You’ve got gang members and convicted felons who are making their way into security officer jobs — hell, there are gang members who are in the United States military — so you have to constantly evaluate the personnel with whom you’re partnering.

“Screening is an ongoing process,” Queen explained. “Some states certify individuals to work as security officers who have criminal histories, and some states don’t immediately revoke security credentials for individuals charged with serious crimes.”

Queen explained that in many places, the state requires the individual to voluntarily report being arrested and charged with a crime. “How many people do you think actually do that. Not a lot, right?”

Due to the fact that most state licensing agencies for private security are not police agencies, your department’s criminal intelligence database may reveal a security officer with gang or other criminal affiliations.

“Do your due diligence!” Queen added.

5 Evaluation Guidelines
Queen then gave five basic guidelines you might consider as your starting point for your own evaluation and selection of private security to be given “membership” in your public/private partnership.

  1. Avoid providing membership to entry-level guards or support personnel.
  2. Approach business leaders to explain what you are looking for in a prospective participant.
  3. Recruit security managers whenever possible. If not possible, then a senior supervisor.
  4. Fully screen individuals who present themselves for membership from their respective security department. Conduct private one-on-one sessions, to “get a feel for the person” and explain your expectations.
  5. Don’t be afraid to say “no” and refuse a prospective member.

Throughout the process, you will also need to identify the range of the partnership (how large of an area to cover: from a local, neighborhood focus all the way up to citywide or regional domain), and determine the scope of the effort.

“What type of criminal activity are you looking for? This will determine who your members should be. If you’re going to go fishing, you should know what kind of fish you’re trying to catch.”

If you’re targeting organized retail theft, you’re naturally going to want to partner with retail security, but you should not dismiss inviting local hotel security too. “Bad guys stay at hotels,” he explained.

“Unless you are establishing your group for the sole purpose of addressing a specific concern, do not limit your membership to specific industry security personnel. You don’t know what other security departments bring to the table until you invite them,” Queen said. “Bringing different types of security departments from different industries together can yield unexpected rewards.”

Two Types of Approach
Queen described two basic models — the beat cop approach and the group approach — which you may consider when implementing a partnership.

The beat cop model is simple, implementable, and scalable.

“Stop in and visit the security officers at specific locations you want to include in your network. Talk to the security guards and determine who you may select as your point person at that location. Get contact information to keep with your cell phone. Repeat this step for every location you wish to add to your network,” Queen said.

“In this method, you’ll likely be drawing more information from entry-level guards, and less from security managers who may not be on site or available at the time of your visit to that location.”

Queen suggested choosing a specific security supervisor or officer, per location, for regular contact. He said you should conduct “an informal field interview type of screen to get a feel for the individual. Talk to their manager,” he added.

The group model is a little more complex, in part by virtue of the fact that there are simply more players involved. As noted above, groups can be created to address multiple criminal concerns or have a singular focus. “Some groups begin as a single-purpose group, and later evolve into a multipurpose group,” Queen said.

Once you’ve identified your range and scope as noted above, you’ll want to create a letter of invitation to security managers at locations you wish to join the organization. “Invite them to a formation meeting, and explain that membership is restricted to security professionals only, at the level of security supervisor or above,” Queen said.

“If possible, hand deliver the letter to the security manager of each organization you wish to add. This allows you your first opportunity to build that relationship, and to feel out the individual.”

Hold regular meetings with the group, and communicate clearly the purposes and objectives of the effort.

“Use the first meeting to establish the purpose of the organization, and the expectations and the frequency of meetings. During the first meeting, you should state who is qualified for membership in the organization, and establish basic parameters of what information is to be shared outside of the membership, and to whom, and when.”

One Final Word of Caution
Security officers collect a ton of information — information on the people they catch in engaged in criminal activities from retail theft to trespassing — and that date goes into vast records which transcend jurisdictional boundaries.

“That information can be invaluable evidence for your investigation into criminal activity you’re investigating,” Queen said.

Queen cautioned, however, that you have to be careful about exchange of information — you must ensure that you’re not treading in legally indefensible waters.

Some police/security group models have:

Only shared information about individuals orally, but not in written form, due to liability concerns under federal and state employment and privacy laws.
Some partnerships provide the most sensitive information only to fully vetted members, although associate members may access other benefits of membership, such as training.

Think of your selected private security partners as the fixed-position sentries. They’re there before your car rolls through the area, and they’re there afterward. They see the people scatter when you roll by, and they see them return after you’ve left.

Not tapping into some of the information and observations certain private security personnel gather is like leaving money on the table.

Doug Wyllie writes police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug was a co-founder of the Policing Matters podcast and a longtime co-host of the program.

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