As president and CEO of Des Moines-based security consultancy The Conley Group, Tom Conley has seen firsthand the consequences of inadequate training among security officers.

“There’s a building in downtown Des Moines that used to have two security officers,” he says. “In one instance, a police officer went to arrest a subject in the lobby and the subject started to fight with him. The officer was fighting for his life, and the two security officers stood right by him and watched. He kept asking for help and they wouldn’t help. That was directly the result of a lack of training.”

Ensuring that security officers are well-trained is necessary to ensure enterprise security. Yet, there are many security officer companies who are wisely investing in providing their officers with the correct training and technology. Other possible solutions include formal certification and improved processes.

Increased Efforts

Beyond some security officer companies who are taking the lead in this area, overall, the security industry will improve their security officer training, says Sandi Davies, executive director of at IFPO, the International Foundation for Protection Officers, when end users proactively demand it.

“In the past, some companies have used old, redundant training materials, with training done in the back of a gun shop, possibly by someone from law enforcement or a military background,” Davies says. “But there is a big difference between law enforcement, which is a reactive mindset, and security, which is preventative. But we do see some larger companies making very proactive changes to the way that things have been done in the past, to respond to end user demand.”

Compounding the problem is a lack of standards. Different U.S. states set different requirements for security officer training, and some don’t require any at all. “In Iowa you can have zero training to be a licensed security officer but if you want to be a cosmetologist it takes 2,200 hours of training to do somebody’s nails,” Conley says.

Despite the hurdles, there are a number of high-value strategies available to get people the training they need, including some security officer companies, such as G4S, who combine the right personnel, training and technology with the responsiveness of local and site management.

Moving the Needle

Certification can be a method to get new hires up to speed. IFPO offers the Certified Protection Officer certification from between $120 and $380 per person. A starter course, the Initial Security Officer Program, costs just $30 and $35 per person for 16 hours of training. “They will be versed in recognizing threats, patrol techniques, crowd control, access control, workplace violence. It gives them a good bit of information,” Davies says.

Security companies also can leverage internal resources and implement formal processes to ensure officers can hit the ground running.

“There should be a minimum requirement for the number of hours a new officer needs to spend with an experienced person,” Conley says. “And there should also be measurable outcomes. At the end of the shadowing time, that person should be able to do certain things or display certain knowledge.”

It’s helpful, too, to document all those on-the-job training hours, along with any other formal training. With mass shooting and workplace violence ever in the news, some companies are getting more savvy about security, and security firms, such as G4S, that can document a solid training regimen, gain a competitive edge.

“The end users are starting to demand tangible proof of training and professional development,” Davies says. “Security companies need to track that information as proof of training, and also as a liability avoidance strategy. In the case of litigation, you want to have some verification that those educational requirements have been met.”