A Veteran Security Officer Provides Insight into a Challenging Profession

Security Officers get a bad rap. Derogatory terms like "rent-a-cop" give the impression of an over zealous, would-be policeman who couldn't make the cut. (Think "Brundon" from Night at the Museum 2). But this profession is filled with serious practitioners who work to make our lives more secure.

I was able to catch up with Donald Parker, a veteran security officer, who provided some unique insight into this challenging profession.

What should a business look for when choosing a security company?

There are a number of things a business owner should consider: How long has the Security Company been in business? Is the company big enough to respond to the business owner's needs?, yet small enough to be able to interact on a personal nature? Does the company provide training to the Officers based on the business owner's needs, or only train to state minimum standards?

Give our readers an overview of your training. What did you need to do in order to qualify as an armed Security Officer?

In Virginia there are 2 types of Security Personnel, In-House (Security Guard)and Contract (Security Officer). An In-House Security Guard is hired directly by the business that they are to protect. A Contract Security Officer is hired by a Security Firm to protect a business that the Security Firm is contracted to protect. So that being said, there is a difference between a Security Guard and a Security Officer.

I cannot speak to Security Guard training, as I have never been privately employed as a Security Guard. However to be employed in Virginia as a Security Officer, the person would be required to become certified by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (Private Security Section). In order to obtain the credentials the person must attend a Private Security Training School that is endorsed by the VA DCJS.

Here is an overview of the training:

Unarmed Security Officer: 18 hours of classroom training. An Unarmed Officer has the same authority of any common citizen. Training would be basic skills such as report writing, observation skills, and basic Security Officer responsibilities.

Armed Security Officer: 43.5 hours of classroom training and 2.5 hours range training time. An Armed Officer has many of the same powers of a Police Officer as long as he/she is on duty and on the contracted property. An Armed Security Officer is also authorized by state law to issue court summonses for violations that occur in his/her presence.

Armed and Unarmed Security Officers are required to maintain their credentials by taking an 8 hour "In Service" training class every 2 years. Armed Officers are required to take a Firearms Retraining class every year. The "In Service" and Firearms Retraining classes must be endorsed by the VA DCJS.

What about your on-going training?

As far as my on-going training, I work on a Virginia Government Contract. I'm required to maintain a Red Cross First Aid Certificate, Red Cross AED operator training, Expandable Baton training, Compliant and Non-Compliant arrest procedure, and yearly firearms training.

What is the most challenging part of your profession?

Interacting with the public. Not that I don't enjoy it, but many people only know what they see on television.

Many people see Security Officers and Guards as uneducated, underpaid, untrained, lazy, wanna-be cops. Honestly there are some in the industry that are like that, but there are many more that are not.

So often when I encounter a person that is unruly, they will challenge my position and sometimes actually want to fight. In the majority of the arrests that I have made, the suspect will say something to the effect of "You can't touch me, you're just Security" or "You're not the Police" Only to later find out that they shouldn't always believe what they see on television. It should be said that we are trained to avoid arrest if at all possible, but in some cases arrest cannot be avoided. Even in the simplest of instances, it's common for a person to get upset when they are approached by Security. I've found that many people assume that the Security Guard/Officer makes up his own rules to enforce and chock it up to a gesture of harassment.

What is the most rewarding part of your profession?

To sum it up, gaining the trust of the people that I'm assigned to protect.

Donald Parker is a veteran Security Officer and is currently employed by New Horizon Security Services