The Silvertrac Extra

Is Observe & Report Obsolete for Today's Security Officers?

 

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On August 26th, a gunman opened fire at a Madden NFL gaming tournament in Jacksonville, FL, killing two people and injuring ten others. Following the incident, a survivor decided to sue the venue and the game publisher, claiming that they failed to provide enough security.

But even if there had been more security officers on duty that day, would they have been able to do anything about the incident?

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't 

In 2010, a Kraft Foods employee opened fire on her coworkers at a plant in Philadelphia, killing two people. During the incident, the security officers and supervisor on duty called 911, but did not intervene. The families of the deceased sued the security company, winning $46.5 million in damages (most of which was tossed out on appeal seven years after the incident).

The security officers were following the old contract security policy of “observe and report.” By that policy, you could argue the officers did their jobs by reporting the incident to the police and then hiding to protect themselves.

Security officers are in a tricky position, because their ability to injure or restrain dangerous individuals is usually limited.

“Private security officers, as a result, end up being put in a no-win situation,” writes Laura Spadanuta in Security Management Magazine. “If guards do intervene, they may be criminally charged for excessive use of force or once again, sued for negligence.”

So, if there were more security officers present in Jacksonville on the day of that shooting, how should they have handled the situation?

Above & Beyond 

Back in 2015, we interviewed Robert Sollars, an author, security consultant, and expert on workplace violence. We talked to him about the Kraft Foods lawsuit.

“Sometimes you need to go above and beyond what your post orders say in order to protect the lives and assets of the client that you’re protecting,” said Sollars. He added “There’s always an opportunity to either de-escalate or talk them down from doing what they’re doing.”

In an ideal world, security officers would be trained to safely intervene and de-escalate dangerous situations. However, when many officers are being paid minimum wage, and turnover rates are estimated to be between 100% and 400% annually, this kind of training just isn’t feasible for many security companies.

New Policies Needed

We’ve talked to a lot of people about this topic, and while there’s no concrete solution, everyone seems to agree on one thing — observe and report isn’t cutting it anymore.

“I have thought that observe and report has been obsolete for almost 30 years,” says Robert Sollars.

“Yes, it is obsolete. We need better trained and better equipped security guards to handle the ever present threat of workplace violence,” says Keenen Sparrow, Custom Protection Officer at G4S.

“Observe and report has, in my opinion, been obsolete since at least Columbine. I believe it should be amended to observe, report, and when necessary, respond,” says security professional Michael Zak.

“Everyone out there who’s been doing this job for a long time knows that observe and report doesn’t cut it anymore,” says Luis E. Rodriguez, Lieutenant Supervisor at Orlando Health. “As a hospital security supervisor, I constantly have to get involved in situations that require a lot more than observe and report. Same goes for my subordinates.”

“Observe and report should now be observe and react, which means that security companies have to invest a significant amount of time and/or money into training, which by the way eats at a company's bottom line,” says Melvin E. Key Sr., CEO of MVP Protective Services. “Understanding that, security guards and CEOs must have the courage and facts to support an increase in rates to accommodate and justify hiring qualified persons to effectively do the job.”

Technology Will Play a Role

A lot of awesome things happen behind the scenes that administrators don’t know about. And, because they don’t get documented in reports, these activities can easily be overlooked.

One classic example comes from healthcare. People will often drive themselves to the hospital, then end up staying for days or weeks. When it comes time to leave, they’ll realize that their car battery died. Security teams at many hospitals keep a jumper system on hand to help out when this happens.

Your security team saving people a call to AAA is a valuable service that can help improve patients’ experience with the hospital. By documenting each of these instances with the help of guard management software, you can build a case for the value your team adds.

Even if you’re not in healthcare, you can probably find a few overlooked ways that your security officers help the organization, whether it’s giving directions to new students, reporting a hazard over by the go karts, or helping lost consultants find their way to their meeting.

In Summary:

How should security officers respond to dangerous incidents? Is it enough to observe and report, or do they need to intervene?

These are tough questions to answer. Legal liability and training costs make it difficult to implement a policy of intervention, but as we’ve seen, the costs of not intervening can be just as high.

This much is certain: Security company executives will have to think about these difficult questions and come up with a policy that protects their officers and their businesses, while carrying out their duty to protect their clients.

 

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Johnny Page

Johnny Page

Johnny is a Customer Success Enthusiast for Silvertrac Software who is passionate about business, technology, and (of course) our customers! Johnny spent time in the security industry in Business Development, Marketing, and Operations before joining the Silvertrac team.

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