It’s important for security professionals to understand their ownership of the facility they protect, and this could be difficult to foster in contracted security officials. However, several Chicago establishments have gone a long way to build that sense in some of the city’s landmark facilities.

At Columbia College, a 16-building private liberal arts college in Chicago’s South Loop, 70-75 AlliedBarton security officers and supervisors patrol on foot, bicycle, Segway and car, and they also monitor the campus’s surveillance system. Each building has a security post at the entrance, and they all work as miniature command centers for the security officer stationed there.

“We consider them ours,” says Robert Koverman, Associate Vice President of Campus Safety & Security at Columbia College. He says that there is no silo or separation between the contract security forces and the in-house staff – they work together as a single entity.

The college works with AlliedBarton to train the security officers as incident commanders. Koverman also worked with the local Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) to negotiate contracts for security officers, including accounting for overhead, management fees and other controllable costs.

Specifically, Koverman also looked for training programs, added value, additional support in the area and professionalism in his contract security. During NATO last year, AlliedBarton sent additional officers, some of whom were within the protestor crowds, feeding information back to the command center on the activities on the street in order to keep students and facilities safe.

The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) also has a nearly all-contract staff, including 60-65 security officers and eight receptionists. The officers, provided through ABM Security, staff the lobby, dock, Skydeck and ID stations. On busy occasions, Willis Tower security is supplemented by 25 off-duty police officers.

“We work to foster a relationship with our security officers,” says Keith Kambic, Director of Security and Life Safety for the Willis Tower, who is himself a contract employee through U.S. Equities Realty. “We want to make them feel like they’re family.” Pulling from his history in the retail sector, Kambic runs a secret shopper program for security, evaluating how professional and effective his security force is. There are no penalties in the program, but there are rewards, such as paid time off or flat screen televisions. The management also throws parties for the security staff, including picnics on the plaza outside or a Christmas party on the 99th floor.

The effort pays off – there is only an 18 percent turnover rate for security staff at the Willis Tower. The officers also get additional training each week, and progress is recorded and tracked.

“It’s the little things that give big dividends,” says Kambic.