Kirk Simmons: Ambassador for the County
Kirk D. Simmons
Security Manager, Hennepin County
Being a government organization that services every facet of the public, there is a whole host of different scenarios that take place on a daily basis,” says Kirk Simmons, Security Manager for Hennepin County in Minnesota. “There are occasions where people are getting their kids taken away from them or they’re being told they need to pay a lot of money in taxes. So, for them, it’s not a really pleasant experience all the time. So, as the security department, we want to ensure that employees and the people utilizing our services can do so in a safe manner. We’re there to protect them and make sure they do what they need to do and get home safely.”
Hennepin County has more than 100 buildings in its system, including libraries, service centers (“A one-stop government shop” that include vital records, taxpayer services, DMV, passports, etc.), health services, courthouses, and other government facilities and offices. For the past eight years, Simmons has been the Security Manager for the County, and he has seen the security department grow from a necessary evil to a legitimate partner in the local government.
“When I first started with security in Hennepin County, people just came into work for a bad day, and that was pretty much it,” he says. “Nobody really understood what it meant to formulate a mission and establish long-term goals, and work towards those goals, adjusting them along the way to make sure they met with where the country was going.”
Simmons, who earned a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Bellevue University (Nebraska), aimed to change that mentality to a proactive security strategy. For example, he is boosting his staff’s potential by exposing them to a variety of organizational leadership and security material, which they discuss on a regular basis.
“We set aside time to discuss these principles, and we use them when we plan out our mission for the next three- or four-year period to establish guidelines for where we need to go and where we should be from a professionalism standpoint. We also look at our training components to make sure that they’re applicable to what we’re currently responsible for.
“People are becoming more familiar with my expectations, and I’m feeling that they’re growing beyond that now, taking the initiative to know what our overall security mission is and being able to articulate that with our training.”
Security employees have a minimum of first responder training, and they provide services above and beyond the typical call of duty, including escorting litigants to and from their vehicles if requested, security planning for events and ID badging responsibilities.
Hennepin County security training extends beyond the department also, as workplace violence is one of the main risks facing Simmons’ team today. They provide basic personal safety training and conflict resolution training for employees, especially for those who deal with confrontational situations daily.
“It seems to be inbred in the culture these days that if people don’t get what they want, they have a tendency to lash out physically,” Simmons says. “It’s in our best interest to make sure that all the employees know as much about these solutions as possible. These educational tools help them negotiate through some of the really difficult situations, so they minimize the amount of risk to them and the amount of risk to us as first responders.”
Departments in Hennepin County are run almost as their own independent business units, and security training requirements are at the discretion of each department head. Some have more participation than others (service center employees, for example, are well-versed in de-escalation methodology now), but employees are able to access training on their own, if they prefer, through the County’s training website.
“I feel as though it’s a good idea to get as many frontline staff members to these training sessions as possible – it will help them be able to do their jobs better, so customer service rankings will reflect more positive experiences, and employees will be able to work in a safer environment.”
“I don’t view ourselves in a security organization as a ‘necessary evil,’ but more of a real partner in being able to help deliver those services to the residents of the county and to the employees. When people walk in to work or to get their services, if they see a security officer standing there, they feel safe. We’re there to be ambassadors for the county – giving directions, providing services – simple as that.”
Before joining Hennepin County’s security team, Simmons was the Corporate Loss Prevention Manager for Musicland Stores Corporation. He has also served both reserve and regular in the United States Marine Corps as a Military Policeman. Securitythanks him for his service.
- Annual Revenue: $1.9 billion
- Security Budget: $5.6 million
- Workplace Violence
- Service Coordination
- Resource Allocation
- Supply Chain
- Supporting Business Growth
- Risk Management Planning
- Asset Protection/Theft