Unarmed Security – Either arm us all or take the gun from the village idiot

Unarmed Security
Either arm us all or take the gun from the village idiot

Posted: Monday, May 26, 2008
Updated: May 25th, 2008 09:27 PM PDT

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Security Strategies Contributor

True Story #1
A friend of mine is a security director for a large institution that serves a special population in a metropolitan area of Ohio. He started his protective services career nearly 40 years ago as a young military policeman in Vietnam. Since that time he has developed his security career to include obtaining numerous Director positions within the private security sector, mostly at vast hospital complexes. He is truly a professional. Nobody knows more about protecting people in his venue then he does.

Over the period of several years in his current position, he noticed several lapses in his organizations security posture. He drafted a plan of action, documented it, and approached his boss, who was the VP of Facilities, while seeking the approval to fix those issues. Of the recommendations offered by my friend, some of them were in the category of either pay now or really, really, pay later. The VP of facilities is an expert at planning for HVAC installation and roofing repairs, but clueless about the dynamics affecting the health, welfare and safety of human beings. Regardless, someone in authority still appointed the facilities VP to be in-charge over the security director as the division leader. In the end, when the security director made his boss aware of glaring security problems, what do you think the VP did? If you guessed Nothing, you were right.

Months later, disaster struck when a deranged criminal entered the facility, took advantage of the security lapses and committed an untold number of felonious crimes against persons. As a result, the institution was nearly shut down and thousands of people would have been negatively affected, from employees losing their jobs to patients not receiving medical services they needed. It was a close call. The doors almost closed due to facing a potential loss of accreditation.

True Story #2
Three weeks ago, my wife gave birth to our son. After spending 4 days and nights at the Akron General Medical Center I knew my way around the hospital pretty well. In my travels, I noticed their security staff and was duly impressed. Their uniforms looked good, shoes polished, and whenever I approached them, they would always initiate the conversation by saying, “Sir, can I help you?” It was obvious to me that they had mastered the public relations skill set of being an ambassador of their organization. However, I also noticed something else. None of the officers possessed firearms.

Given the current status of the world that we live in, it is absolutely inexcusable that security officers tasked with protecting staff, patients, visitors, and property are unarmed. When any homicidal/suicidal maniac, not to mention desperate dope addict, could wander into an emergency room with a .22 caliber handgun they purchased on the street for $80 and force a violent encounter, how come security can’t at least have the minimum capacity to immediately counter a deadly force threat?
Here are the Top 5 faulty reasons that I have found over the years for the administrative position of not arming security officers:

1. “We don’t need them here”. That’s like saying Kansas does not need tornado shelters, because they do not have tornados. The organizational administrators that I have met who have made this ridiculous statement just do not live in reality. Either watch TV, choose to believe what you read the newspaper, or better yet, listen to the person you hired to be your security director and let the trained professional who knows how to save lives make the correct strategic decision. If you don’t trust their judgment, don’t hire them.

2. “Visitors and patrons might feel intimidated if an officer is armed”. I don’t know about you, but I have never been intimidated by a police or security officer carrying a firearm. Why? Because I am not the criminal. Wake up! We live in the USA! There are more guns here per capita then coffee beans in Africa! Oh, and by the way, security officers do not have to carry firearms visibly if you are really that image sensitive. Just ask the security operatives for Israeli El-Al Airlines. Chances are the flight attendant handing you your pop and pretzels on that overseas flight is also highly skilled in Krav Maga and packing a pistol. Maybe that’s a reason why their aircraft has never been successfully hijacked.

3. “The crime rate around here isn’t bad”, or “It’s never happened here before”. Both of these living in a dream-world statements go hand-in-hand. Generally, workplace shooting incidents don’t happen more than once at the same location. It’s usually a “there’s a first time for everything” type event. Victims and witnesses all say the same thing after the carnage stops, “I never thought something like this could happen here”. Think again, we live in a dangerous world.

4. “Our local police response is about 3 to 4 minutes”. How many times can you pull a trigger in that time span? History tragically reminds us that each trigger pull can represent a human life being lost while waiting for law enforcement to arrive.

5. “By arming officers we are implying it is dangerous to be here”. An attorney said this to me once. You don’t want this lawyer representing you. Fundamentally, common law stipulates that even if you do not have security at all, you still have a duty – to some extent – to protect or else risk negligence charges. When I can prove to a jury that hospitals, colleges, universities, shopping malls, etc attract criminals just as easily as they attract law abiding citizens, and you have done nothing to ensure an appropriate, or reasonable, level of protection then your bank account is wide open for civil litigation. It’s actually pretty easy for me to detail to a jury that you should have known, not because I am that good or highly experienced. I don’t have to be. The world is just that bad and getting worse. I just have to paint the picture using visions they understand.

In closing, please keep my email address handy and feel free to notify me if you or an attorney you know needs an expert witness to testify on behalf of the plaintiff in a case where security was not properly trained or equipped. I say this not because I am greedy and seek to contribute to our overly litigious society, but because I am tired of the wrong people being placed in-charge of security functions making bad decisions. Apparently the only way to get them to change is to get them to pay. Nothing captures an administrator’s attention more than losing a couple million dollars. I will be happy to make that happen.

Keith R. Lavery, M.A., is a full-time criminal justice educator teaching secondary education and having taught law enforcement, criminal justice and security courses at the post-secondary level. Keith had a very diverse police career for over 17 years, working in urban and rural law enforcement settings with assignments ranging from patrol to specialized functions, and to stay current in the field, works part-time as a patrol officer in Northeastern Ohio. Keith is currently the Law Enforcement Liaison for the Cleveland, Ohio, Chapter of ASIS International.