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What is really wrong with the Security Industry in Ontario Today?

The job I do is a fairly unique one, requiring skills, training and judgment not generally seen in the normal work place environment. No two days are ever the same! I have worked in just about every type of environment imaginable; Ive patrolled from place to place in a car, done desk duty and walked in or outside from the blistering heat of summer to the frigid sub zero temperatures of a deep winter night. I have responded to alarms both in a car and on foot. In every case I was alone and armed only with a baton and a radiosometimes not even then. I have patrolled some of the worst buildings that our city has to offer and done it without a partner, gun or, in one case, a radio and using only my personal cell phone to call for help. I have just about all the training that is available to our industry that you could imagine; including use of force, firearms, crisis intervention training, medical training, and must keep current - usually at my own cost - not only because its my job, but also my responsibility to do so. I have spent probably in the thousands of dollars in equipment over the years, some special items that I wanted to have to make the work easier, some the company should have provided but didnt, claiming that you wont need that, and besides its too expensive. (Proper communications tactical radios come to mind) I have worked for managers that are not interested in the least who or what they send to a job so long as a hole gets filled. Have been told lies about the jobs that I had to do and been partnered with people, to whom teamwork is as alien a concept as breathing is to a fish and who are only there because they need a job and should never have been given a uniform to begin with. Driven vehicles that are not suited to patrolling of any kind and designed for someone much smaller than myself all because the company feels that they might save a few dollars at the gas pump, usually at the expense of operator safety and comfort. (Spend 12 hours in a Toyota Yaris or Honda Civic along with all your gear and youll know what I mean) My wages, commiserate with an entry level data processing job (anywhere from minimum wage to about $15.00 per hour which are normally reserved for supervisors and that only if youre lucky) do not cover the requirements of modern living expenses. And the company is ever alert to claw them back whenever they can for the slightest reason. I have been involved in just about every type of situation imaginable. I have been the first to arrive at domestic disputesseen people covered in bruises, blood, stabbed and in one case shot.

I have dealt with panicking people, medical situations ranging from a sprained ankle to a severe car accident where a victim was unresponsive and there was more blood than Ive ever seen before or since. I have assisted the police with investigations, taken statements, recovered video, and interviewed subjects, victims and witnesses. I have removed people, both by force and peaceably, I have transported people to jail, put them on airplanes heading out of Canada and taken them off airplanes when they shouldnt have been there in the first place. I have arrested people who are both compliant, violent or both in turn, and all swearing that they would somehow get me, end my life, sue me, have me fired, kill my family or have me removed from my site. Am I a police officer.No, Im not. I am a licensed security guard in the Province of Ontario and have been employed as one for many years now. And Im not alone There are many versions of me out there, some not as qualified, some far more so. Am I uniqueNot in the slightest! I am writing this because of the many frustrations that I have experienced as a Security Officer (yes I said officer, not guard; a term that I find to be incredibly demeaning) both with employers who treat us as though we were a cheap and expendable commodity to the clients who demand that we be removed do to perceived slights, procedural errors or personality conflicts, none of which justify smearing an officers permanent employment history. From personal experience I can tell you that I have been removed from sites for the flimsiest of reasons. Anything from a negative comment from an employer to the client service manager about a particular officer to a perceived mis-handling of a situation can and usually does get a perfectly good officer removed with no recourse what so ever. Not only that the parent company, who are only focused on keeping the client at any cost, will not back up their officer either firing him/her with the thinnest of excuses. All born of a situation where administrative discipline (if even it was called for) would more than suffice. In one case I was employed as the senior road officer in a company. I was responsible for all employees and other patrol cars on the road during silent hours. After three successful months of working with the company and not a bad word said about my performance I was called at home by the companys operations manager just after getting up for a night shift. She told me that I had been pulled from the schedule pending a disciplinary interview with Human Recourses.

She would not say whyWhen I challenged her to give a reason I was told that I had been fired. To this day I do not know the reason. REMOVED?! One of the biggest problems for private security in this modern day and age is being removed from a site with no recourse. As I said earlier officers are removed for a variety of reasons, and most of them have nothing to do with the ability or capability of the officer in question. Its happened to me a number of times throughout my career and many of those Ive come to know in the industry... In each case it was not warranted and the reasons, though dressed up in official sounding jargon, amounted to not much more than an officer being removed as the easiest solution to a perceived problemwhether it exists or not. The professional consequences can be damningthe emotional ones can be soul-destroying! Imagine working hard at your job with only praise coming from your superiors and colleagues alike. Then one day you handle a situation to the best of your ability. You utilize your training and your experience and feel that youve done a pretty good job of things. Usually, as anyone in law enforcement can tell you, we only have a few seconds in which to make the correct decision, and then implement itSomehow that never seems to get taken into account Then the client comes along. And because the client is worried about lawsuits, public or superior perception or any other myriad of reasons which have nothing to do with your performance, abilities, judgment or experience you find yourself, after a short interview in which you are told that you are the bad guy and the biggest problem theyve ever had, out the door with little or no explanation. To date I have yet to find one single security officer that has successfully fought being removed and won, no matter the reason. UNIONS To my knowledge there are very few security companies in Ontario that are unionized. But even if they are the union can only exercise power with your parent employer and not the client, who retains the power to demand, and at a whim, that your face be the one that is never seen at that site again. At present the most that a union can do for you is to ensure that your employment with your present company continues in some form after the perceived removal and accompanying disciplinary actions are complete.

This needs to change! BILL 159 When bill 159 was introduced it brought some great things with it, and a few items which were not so well received. Let me start out by saying that I am wholly in agreement with the regulation of our industry. However with Bill 159 I believe that it went too far in some areas and not nearly enough in others. To begin with it has made the security license portable and removed the company from ownership. This is a positive step for a number of reasons; first and foremost it puts the ability to improve working conditions for yourself back in your hands, so if you do get removed you can be picked up by another company and begin to work almost immediately. Second; if fiscal ends are not meeting and you need to work moremaybe due to the fact that your company isnt giving you full time hours you have the ability to get secondary employment in your chosen field. The security companies dont much care for this arrangement for the same reason; it lessens their ability to control your actions, whether through fear of losing shifts, negative performance reviews or favoritism (not aimed at you) you can now pick up and move on if your boss is a twit. Of course nearly every company will try to get you to sign some sort of document making you swear on a stack of bibles (insert religious book of choice) that while employed by them you will not work for any other company without their permission. Im not sure exactly how much legal weight those pieces of paper carry, probably as much as the one that says that you will not work in the security industry for a year after you leave Go figure. UNIFORM, EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLE REQUIREMENTS The PAO supports legislation that would prohibit private security from wearing uniforms or driving vehicles similar to those used by police personnel. The above excerpt is quoted from a document on the web, published by the Police Association of Ontario back in September 14 of 2005. I have personally had a police negotiator have a good go at me a number of years back because I had the audacity to wear a yellow windbreaker one day (company issued mind you) in a place with more than two police officers in it. In his verbal tirade against private security he pretty much came out and told me that, were it up to him, we would be reduced to 1970s era dress code and rules.

If you take a look at the document at the other end of the web link you will very quickly come to realize that, were it up to the police brass, we would be back wearing grey slacks, a blue blazer and directing people to the washroom, oversized flashlight in hand. I wonder how the growing number of security officers in Ontario who have been shot and had their vests stop the round feel about that? Although they do have some valid concerns I believe the chief aim of this document and the PAO is to retain the financial support of the Provincial and Federal Governments that allow them to exist in the first place and in the numbers that they dowithout competition, either real or perceived. Ontarians expect and deserve quality professional police protection. Private police forces and the gated communities that we see south of our border have no place in our province Exert from PAO above quoted statement. While I am a huge supporter of the police I also realize that they cant be everywhere at once. There are instances where private security, hired by the site, or a home owners association, will be far quicker in responding to an alarm, or break in, or other type of emergency. Also if the police are having a busy evening it may take them some time to reach you, depending on the nature of your particular need and the priority in which the police dispatchers place it in. Not to say that the police will not be involved. If an arrest takes place they will, at some point, have to attend and deal with the arrestee, either to lay a charge or release him/her. However private security, properly trained to respond to such matters, will be able to pave the way, gather information, take statements and generally speed things up for the police when they attend. A situation with video taken, statements done and reports already made out and a subject under arrest are far easier for the police to deal with then picking up the pieces of whatever happened and trying to wrap it all up hours (or perhaps even days) later. Another reason that the police are wary of private security becoming more prominent is budgets. It is pretty common knowledge that the police are in a constant fight for annual funds just the same as any other governmental body. Many of the friends that I have in law enforcement will be the first to tell you that a business degree will go much farther these days in just about any police service upper echelon than say a psychology degree will. All major operations that the police undertake in modern times are assigned an operating budget. The operational commander cannot exceed his allowed funds or will quickly find himself on the cocoa matting to explain why and where the excess money was spent and how he as the operational commander mismanaged it.

Unfortunately given the world that we live in, and the amount of violence-related crime occurring in Canada these days, Private Security is forced to take a much larger role within the spectrum of law enforcement and that role will grow greater yet as financial belts tighten. I do not agree with privatizing the police far from it. We will always require a publicly funded and properly staffed policing apparatus in Canada. The moment that state funded law enforcement disappears I can guarantee you that someones greed and poor judgment will place human lives in jeopardy. If the current crop of security companies cannot even properly equip and train the employees they have now can you imagine what they would do with a city or regional police service handed to them to run! Anytime profit and loss are at stake some board of directors someplace well out of harms way (with their own crop of well paid bodyguards so as to avoid the unpleasantness the rest of us must face) will slash operational funds in order to keep their profit/loss statements in the black. That kind of thinking has no place where safety and welfare of people are concerned. And we see this example over and over again with private companies that have gone from proper tactical radio systems to cell phones with a walkie-talkie feature that is completely and totally inadequate for law enforcement. (If you gave the police those things youd have a mutiny on your hands! Dont believe me; just try and call for help with one of those things while someone is trying to punch you or throw you to the floor, then youll see what I mean pretty quickly) A private company would think nothing of sticking a guard alone in some of the worst buildings this city has to offer, and would cheerfully do it without giving you a radio, or even a cell phone, with which to call for help. And yes it has happened to me more than once. Another striking example of this would be the cars that security officers are being forced to drive these days. Gone are the fleets of Impalas, a decent size car with room for kit and the occasional light package as required. Instead I have seen (and driven Im ashamed to say) every tiny car made these days from the Toyota Yaris to a Smart Car. One company I know of utilizes a fleet of Ford Focuses. A number of them have either exploded or burst into flame during normal patrol use. In all cases the driver was able to exit the vehicle in time, but would this have happened if the vehicle was of a proper design for the prolonged patrolling being demanded of it.

Now this could be due to poor maintenance, however it has been suggested to me by more than one person in the know that the cars simply could not keep up with the demands of a continuous patrol schedule and so permanently retired themselves so to speak. And for those nay-sayers out there; ask your selves why the police use cars that are so heavily modified with beefed up brakes, engines, suspension, electrical and coolant systems. Most likely they dont want their road staff burnt to a crisp in a car that was meant only to be used for a few short hours a day, instead of a twenty-four hour rotation. A few forward thinking companies have purchased SUVs which are great for crew comfort as well as able to access some of the nastier places that private security is called upon to go in this day and age. Lightbars on Vehicles Light bars also add an extra tool in the inventory of the mobile security officer. While security do not normally pull people over (and driving with red and blue lights on the road is prohibited) a lightbar on the roof of a vehicle also has alley and takedown lights. These are lights located on the front and sides of the lightbar and can be switched on and off independently of one another. These white lights are fantastic for searching dark corners and building facades. Its also much safer when searching a building in alarm to see if there has been a break and enter while remaining in the vehicle, as opposed to trying to either drive and shine a flashlight at the same time or, worse, walking the site and unexpectedly coming upon a broken window or door with a bad guy on the other side. The police are using light bars, or the more adjustable post lights, in the same way when searching a property or area while remaining within the safety of their vehicle. Lights (of the amber variety) are also very handy when stopping repeatedly in a high traffic area such as a mall parking lot or airport. This could be for a number of reasonsany thing from giving out parking tickets to patrolling (which happens in every major mall in Canada) a highly visible device like a lightbar is nearly essential, and most mall vehicles already have and use them to great success. The addition of a traffic director in the rear which indicates whether it is safe to go around the left or right side of a vehicle is a great addition to a light bar and most new models can be programmed to provide this useful tool. They can also be purchased separately for roughly $300.00(CDN) and raise the awareness of the presence of a security vehicle to the motorists in the general vicinity. To my knowledge there is only one company that purchases lightbars for their vehicles. Light bars are unfortunately, an expensive piece of kit, running anywhere from $700.00 to $1000.00 dollars CDN depending on what you want it to be able to do for you.

Hence most companies will not purchase this type of equipment and, when asked, state that security doesnt need them in order to do their jobs properly. Of course the people making those decisions are just parroting those that have gone on before and are afraid that if they spent that money to buy something as prosaic as vehicle safety equipment it would show up in the negative at the end of the year on their profit/loss statements (Again remember the board of directors). No, the answer lies in the further forced regulation of the industry as a whole with proper equipment and training to be government mandated so that security officers will not have to patrol nasty places with only a cell phone to call for help with, and in sufficient numbers to be able to support each other until police arrive! Shoulder rank and dark coloured shirts. These are two of the things that Bill 159 has taken away from the security industry and, in my humble opinion, not really the big deal that the police associations have made them out to be. Since time immortal security organizations have worn military style rank to denote supervisors and the like. With the removal of a standard rank style it has become much harder to readily identify who might be in charge and who is wearing a very colourful first aid badge. Oddly enough the police officers encountered on the street are the ones that are confused the most. In a crowd situation they are used to looking for a sergeants stripes to denote authority. Likewise any member of the public can generally recognizes the fact that three stripes and a crown denotes some type of supervisor. The removal of black coloured shirts from the allowed security uniform line up may, at a glance, remove the question about whether the wearer is a police officer or not however there are those that will consistently not recognize that any worn uniform is a policing one. Even with the word security plastered all over my body while Im working does not stop the occasional unenlightened individual from asking me whether Im a cop, with the coast guard (yes its happened) a repair man or other strange association that the rest of us would not in a million years dream of making. No matter what, some people will just not pay enough attention to understand what theyre looking at, no matter whom or what it is. FIREARMS AND THE SECURITY INDUSTRY While Im not a great fan of firearms for sport or entertainment (despite having used one for nearly all of my professional life I dont own one) I do recognize that the requirement or necessity for all aspects of law enforcement to have them.

However in Ontario (especially) there is such a hue and cry over allowing firearms to be issued to those who need them that I almost wonder why I bother to tackle this issue at all?! If units like TTC Special Constables, Court Officers and GO Transit Special Constables and U of T police Special Constables arent able to equip their people with firearms what hope does private security have?! (NOTE: the only special Constables in Ontario to carry firearms are the Niagara Parks Police and they are legislated to do so. Im reasonably sure that some one from the POA, at some point, probably tried to go after their right to carry and were most likely stymied by the legislation.) There is a small vocal minority in Southern Ontario that firmly believes that guns are BAD. It never seems to occur to this group that the bad guys have more (way more) access to guns now than ever before and shootings in this country (especially here) are way up. If one takes a quick look at the assault rate (the murder rate will not give an accurate accounting as modern medical practices save ever more lives) one will quickly realize that its not going down and continues to grow at an alarming rate. Most of those assaults are committed with weapons (knives or guns) and, it seems, the willingness to use them with reckless abandon. (BTW modern law enforcement firmly believes that anyone holding a knife and is within 21 feet of a police officer can close the distance and stab that officer before he/she has the chance to draw and fire their service weapon.) And they are not going to go away either. The sooner that this small liberal vocal minority understands this, the better off (and safer) well all be. The TTC especially has a very real need for equipping their officers with firearms due to the amount of dangerous situations and people they face as an everyday part of their duties. (Note: The TTC Special Constables have been shut down and replaced with a lesser number of Toronto Police Officers again this is most likely a budget issue. The cops get more federal funding if they do the job themselves) Yet private security has been carrying side arms for many years now in the capacity of Cash in Transit and static protection of valuables. Although I understand that the police no longer permit the static protection of valuables, preferring instead to do it themselves (the going rate for a pay duty is something like $80.00 per hour for a minimum of 4 hours even if the officer is only there for 10 minutes) The job is becoming sufficiently dangerous that a provision should be made for a higher class of security officer to have the ability to carry firearms in both uniform and non-uniform capacity. Again the government needs to step in and mandate the training requirements for this class of officer to exist and under what circumstances they can be deployed to do their jobs. Of course the way things are now private security cant even carry pepper spray unless they happen to be working with canine and even then the spray is for the dog, not an offender.

The SECURITY PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION The Federal Government needs to be the one to make the required changesbecause once it is law only then will the power rest not with the client, a group of people that have no idea what security means or how to implement it and continue to make executive level decisions based on inaccurate perception, incomplete knowledge of the job and, to my mind the most motivating factor, personal fear that they will somehow be held responsible for whatever the problem was to begin with. What should take its place is an investigative process that evaluates every situation dispassionately based, not on fear of job loss or repercussion for the client, but whether the officer in question followed procedure, used force according to the Provincial use of force model and did not step outside the bounds of what a security officer is supposed to be doing at that site at the time the incident occurred. This should be government mandated and controlledthe client, as such, should have no say beyond being interviewed by the Government Officer handling the investigation. If all of those steps are taken and the actions of officer in question is found to be within policy then the officer should not have any fear of his or her job being in jeopardy by the parent guard company or, more importantly, the client. Officers should be protected from a vindictive clients whim and fancy as much as possible. The way the situation is now is like the police attending a call and the general public having the ability to fire them on a whim if they dont like the outcome. It is both incredibly disheartening for the security officer and costly for the parent company who must then go to the expense of finding and then training a new individual to take over the post. Then the company must find new employment for an otherwise excellent officer who may have done nothing more than fall afoul of casual circumstances or a personality dispute with the client. (Which happens at sites far more than you might think and should never, ever be grounds for dismissal) As it is new employment will be found only if the officer has a union to protect him or her and/or if the officer is liked by the parent company management. The Security Protective Association would first and foremost protect the rights and reputation of private security officers who find themselves in a bind with the client or parent company. This association would be mandated at the provincial level and have the power to force an officer who has been cleared of wrong doing to return to work at his or her site regardless of the opinions of the client. The Association would also take the place of the fragmented unions that fight over who will represent whom and at what price charged back to the officers for their nebulous services.

The Association would be a province wide one with mandatory enrollment once licensed in the province of Ontario with dues paid directly to it in order to fund the organization. With roughly 26,000 security officers in Ontario the dues would be low enough that funding would not be a problem. CONCLUSION Ive spoken from the heart in this document and said lots of things that, I feel, are incredibly relevant and needed to be said. Some of it isnt comfortable and no doubt there will be some browned off people out there who disagree with my philosophy regarding the direction that modern security in Canada is heading. However I think all of us can agree that it isnt the game that it was even 10 years ago and that the demands placed on us by an ever-changing society will only increase, as they will for the police and every other arm of law enforcement within our country. We can ignore it, in which case it will (if history bears out) eat us up and move on, or we can rise to meet those challenges with open eyes and a professionalism not previously seen in our industry. In order to do this some further changes need to be made; The tiered licensing system needs to be brought into effect in order to differentiate which officer is qualified to handle the more difficult aspects of security work and who is not. Levels of pay for different tiers of security officer need to be government mandated (as they are in Quebec) to reflect the standard of professional achievement that the security officer has reached. Increased hiring standards to weed out those who have opted for security as a job only because they cant find work in their chosen field. Just as an aside, when security testing was brought in in Ontario the pass mark was at first, much higher. It was lowered so as to allow the MASSES OF GUARDS THAT HAD FAILED THE TEST (which is not in any way difficult) TO PASS! If the numbers of available security officers were reduced to those who actually wanted to be in the industry it might actually force the companies to raise the wages to something more in line with the cost of living here in Ontario The recognition by upper policing brass that private security has a greater role in Canadian society than ever before and to work with us, not try and knock us down due to fears (real or imagined) that were going to take their budgets away. Government regulation forcing companies to PROPERLY TRAIN AND EQUIP todays security officers for the job they are doing.

The creation of a federal or provincial Protective Association mandated to protect security officers who, while doing their jobs, cant be kicked to the curb because the client or parent company is worried about a law suite or doesnt happen to like the officer in question. I have tried to express myself honestly in this document and have thought long and hard about writing it. I hope it inspires some of you to at least take a second look at our industry and where we stand within it. You can only benefit yourselfand the rest of us. Name withheld for fear of retribution from the client, the police and my parent company That too must change A Security Officer in the Province of Ontario