At the end of last year, Michelle Russell, CEO of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) addressed industry professionals with an outlook for 2022, whilst reviewing the events that impacted last year.
The SIA defines itself as “an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Home Office” and thus reports to the Home Secretary. Established in 2003, two years after the publication of the Private Security Industry Act 2001, it is responsible for the regulation of the private security industry in the UK.
As a result, the two main purposes served by the SIA are:
- to regulate some professionals in the industry who need a licence to perform certain jobs within it
- to approve private security companies to become part of the SIA Approved Contractor Scheme.
Furthermore, other functions served by the SIA include setting and approving standards of conduct and training for private security professionals, monitoring the activities of people operating within the industry and making recommendations on ways to improve standards.
In her statement, Russell highlighted what she sees as the key events that have impacted the industry in 2021 and sets out the SIA’s priorities for this year. The main points Russell covered include:
- the acknowledgment of the “critical role” private security professionals have played in 2021 in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, such as caring for the public in testing and vaccination centres, quarantine hotels and hospitals, as well as supermarkets, offices, and various other public places.
- Asking the industry to “stay alert” to the ongoing threats of terrorism, as demonstrated by the murder of Sir David Amess in October of last year, or the attempted bombing of Liverpool Women’s Hospital a few weeks later.
These two points are particularly interesting, as they illustrate that from Russell’s – and ergo the SIA’s – perspective, the private security industry has a role to play in helping to maintain public order as well as the safety of the public. This is obviously a key role which is classically assigned solely to law enforcement.
Complementary but not a substitute for police
As the above suggests, private security companies are … well, private. They are businesses above all, and priority should be to deliver the service they are hired to provide and make a profit out of it.
On the other hand, Mrs Russell’s end of year statement is a useful reminder of the unique and specialised nature of the industry. Private security professionals are not police officers or PCSOs, they do not enforce the law and have no power or authority to arrest or detain members of the public. But at the very heart of the job is security, in other words protecting people.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines police as “the official organisation that is responsible for protecting people and property, making people obey the law, finding out about and solving crime, and catching people who have committed a crime”.
Again, private security is not, cannot and should not be misinterpreted as a substitute to law enforcement. If anything, because it is not the responsibility of the industry to “make people obey the law” or investigate criminal acts and “catch people who have committed a crime”. Having said that, as Russell points out, “public protection remains the central focus of the SIA’s role and work”. In that sense, private security professionals need to work hand in hand with police forces when it comes to protecting the public.
What to expect in 2022?
A final point particularly interesting in Russell’s statement refers to the indications she provided as to what will constitute the SIA’s priorities for 2022. For instance, she celebrates “a dedication to quality and the pursuit of best practice in the security industry”.
Therefore, maintaining the public’s trust in the private security industry, notably by ensuring compliance of the Authority’s regulation and standards of behaviour, is likely to be at the heart of what to expect this year.