For many years now, the Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police have encouraged partnerships between local law enforcement and private security companies. Both believe that law enforcement and private security are stronger when they work together as partners. One area of possible partnership would be observation patrols. In some communities this could be an expansion of a current neighborhood observation patrol program and in other communities it would be an entirely new program.
Both city and county law enforcement departments have stated over and over again that they cannot be everywhere and observe what is happening in neighborhoods and business districts. From these concerns many departments have developed volunteer civilian neighborhood observation patrols. These civilian volunteers patrol areas, observe places of concern, and report suspicious or unlawful activity to an assigned law enforcement officer. Because their work requires dedication and is time consuming, it cannot be done by a private security guard, unless contracted to do so. Nonetheless, private security companies could participate in the patrol element of the program. In cities and counties that do not have neighborhood observation patrols private security companies could be an additional asset that uses an already existing set of eyes on the streets.
Private security guards that are assigned to vehicle patrols spend countless hours on the streets, driving from one client site to another. While they are commuting from one site to another they can be an extra set of eyes for local law enforcement. These individuals have been trained to observe and take notice of things outside of the norm and they have also been trained not to engage in activities, but instead report them. This makes them perfectly suited for observation patrols. With the proper form of communication, they can perform this service without taking time away from their regular duties and responsibilities.
Communication is the real devil in the details, because the security guard must be able to make the report while in route to the next client site without delay. If the communication between the security guard and law enforcement is cumbersome, it will slow down the security guard and cause an intolerable delay. Therefore, this kind of observation patrol will need a seamless line of communication between the security guards and the law enforcement community. While I personally believe that it would be better for the security guards to have a means to directly contact a member of the law enforcement community, I realize that the local 911 operations is most likely the preferred option for many.
When you call 911 the operator is going to be asking the kind of questions that will develop an initial report that will assist law enforcement to respond appropriately. However, this process is often too detailed and time consuming for a security guard who is simply calling to report suspicious activities and observations. Remember, time management is critical. Therefore, using a 911 operation as a call in center for a security observation patrol would require the phone operators to be oriented to receiving a report without developing it with details. With this in mind, a simple format that can be memorize by both the reporting security guard and the 911 operator would be the most prudent method.
Here is an example of a simple format. The 911 operator answers the phone and says, “what is the nature of your emergency (or similar words)?” The guard says, “security observation patrol.” The operator then would say, “identify yourself?” Then the guard says the name of security company they work for and either their employee number or other company identification. An example of this would be, “acme security and I am security officer 123abc.” After the operator has processed this information, the operator says, “what are you reporting?” The guard will give a one sentence report. For an example, “A broken door window at John’s flower shop at 123 main street” or “a fight involving several individuals in the parking lot of big box store at the corner of east street and main street.” The guard ends the report with the words, “report submitted.” After the operator has processed the report, the operator says, “Thank you for the report, goodbye (or something similar).” As you can clearly see, time management is at the core of this format.
One might ask, why request an employee number? The reason is simple, some names are challenging to write and record. If someone has an uncommon name, it can be time consuming to record. Giving the name of the security company and the employee number (or other company identification) will be enough information for the law enforcement community to easily find the reporting security guard.
It would be a great benefit for the local law enforcement community to have security guards as a partner that provides an additional set of eyes in the neighborhoods through security observation patrols and it is the kind of partnership that the Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police envision for the future of public safety. As for the private security companies, the general public tends to have a positive response to business that promotes their safety and well-being. So having their officer’s participate in security observation patrols would be good for their public image and could also be beneficial for them in other ways. In closing, this program would cost law enforcement nothing and the gain for law enforcement is an invaluable asset.
Written by Dave Pflueger August 26, 2016 (c) copyrighted by Pflueger. Dave is a former Correctional Chaplain of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and certified for mental health peer counseling.