From monitoring new video feeds with analytics to the ability to access complex systems from anywhere within a computer network, improvements in technology are a driving force to help customers protect their people, facilities and assets.

And now, a superior caliber of security officers has emerged to meet the challenge; officers who are highly qualified, technology savvy and custom-trained for the specific environment in which they will be working. Today’s officers must have the best training to draw on as they complete critical tasks, and often times their skill sets are carefully matched to the specific needs of the industry sector, the market and even to the institution they serve. Quite frankly, this change in the kind of security officers available today adds new value for the end user.

More technology savvy.Technology is an essential part of the corporate security world, and today’s security officers must be able to interact efficiently and effectively with various high tech tools. Old-style “pen and pencil guard tours” have been replaced by the use of mobile devices and computer systems that provide real-time incident communication and response. Now security officers may be equipped with software-enabled PDAs, which can then be networked wirelessly with a command-center module and used to capture incidents, send pictures, record time-and-attendance of officers, plot GPS coordinates of their locations and guard tours. The accumulated data is a useful tool to analyze trends and measure safety and security performance.

Training for a specific range of skills.Continuous professional training is a definite requirement for the new generation of security officers. Today, security officers should be carefully screened and trained to meet their industry-specific environments. Special talents, experience and the overall disposition for the job are all important factors in determining where a security officer works. Online training can be a useful tool, and training courses may offer continuing education units (CEUs). Security personnel companies should leverage their affiliation with colleges or universities to enable security officers to pursue a college degree and/or professional accreditations. It’s important that we support security officers as they pursue Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Physical Security Professional (PSP) certifications.

Empowerment to make more decisions.One benefit of highly-trained and more experienced security officers is their ability to make better decisions. An officer in the field who is equipped, informed and qualified to solve a problem or respond to a situation brings added value to the customer, helping to reduce risk when compared to an officer who is ill-equipped, not informed or waiting for someone else to tell him or her how to react to even minor situations. Candidates looking to become a security officer are no longer looking at this position as a dead-end job but more of a career. As a result, a new kind of security officer has emerged.

Often times, military veterans or former law enforcement personnel are finding a rewarding second career in the security industry and these officers are capable of making important on-the-spot decisions.

Mobile Information.The use of smartphones and other hand-held devices are empowering security professionals to capture and send real-time information while on guard tours or manning a post. Now, Web-based reporting tools enable officers to record incident information, including photos and then send real-time notifications to appropriate staff. Today, mobile devices can help drive performance and compliance. From post confirmation, GPS plotting, guard tour documentation, proof of presence to regulated compliance issues like assault and battery on college campuses or CFATS mandated facility inspections. Mobility allows information to be immediately entered at the scene making it more accurate and timely than information gathered the old fashioned way and then recalled hours later. Ultimately, less time at a desk filling out paperwork means more productive time spent guarding property and assets.

Career-oriented professionalism.Today’s practice of security requires a better class of security officers, including candidates who see security as a profession rather than a temporary or transitional job. Getting the best people requires security organizations to invest in recruiting, hiring and training the best candidates and then offering them a continuing education and training resulting in a rewarding career path.

Specialization to serve a customer’s needs.Security officers are not a one-size-fits-all business anymore. Expectations of performance by a security officer can vary widely from one client to the next, even from one position to another within the same company. The skills needed by security officers deployed at reception areas are very different than the skills needed by security personnel deployed in high-risk, high-consequence environments. Customers should have the flexibility to choose the right officer for a job, based on experience and qualifications. They should be able to select among candidates that have various levels of skills and training whether it’s from the military, law enforcement or on-the- job expertise in specific market sectors, such as commercial real estate, financial institutions or the chemical/petrochemical industry.

In the end, the security officer is the first responder and the linchpin of any organization’s security readiness. The true measure of a security program’s effectiveness ultimately begins with recruiting the best people, equipping them with the best training, matching them up to work in the best environment based on their skills and providing a fulfilling professional development path.