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March 19, 2021

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Public security

‘Holistic security cultures supported by competent advisors’: The Security Institute response to the Protect Duty consultation

The much-anticipated consultation process for the proposed Protect Duty was launched by the Home Office on 26 February. The anti-terrorism legislation will be designed to ensure the public is better protected from a “multifaceted, diverse and continually evolving” terror threat.

Here, Jonathan Schulten FSyI, provides an initial viewpoint on behalf of the Security Institute, highlighting how a more holistic approach to security cultures may be necessary for operators to embrace, as well as the importance of competent and trusted advisory professionals to support those in scope with compliance.  

Organisations likely to be impacted by the proposed Protect Duty legislation have been invited to respond to the consultation process, as are all interested parties and individuals. The Protect Duty will place a requirement on owners and operators of Publicly Accessible Locations (PALs) to assess what might be done to reduce the impact of terrorist attack at PALs and undertake proportionate steps to mitigate such impact.

The Security Institute, as the UK’s largest professional membership organisation is well-positioned to add value to this process. In addition to submitting responses to the 58 questions posed within the consultation document we shall be submitting a long-form response. This will be steered largely by the work from our Counter Terrorism Special Interest Group (CT SIG), one of 15 separate SIGs the Institute currently coordinates. The CT SIG comprises 228 Institute members, many of whom have extensive experience and a strong interest in CT related matters. Other Institute SIGs, such as our Built Environment and our Heritage and Faith SIGs, will engage with the CT SIG to further inform their output.

The CT SIG is co-chaired by Steve McGrath, Business Engagement Lead at NaCTSO and Andy Donaldson, Head of Security at property group Real Estate Management. Steve and Andy have developed a delivery plan which will interest, educate and occupy CT SIG members well beyond the period of the Protect Duty consultation, with bespoke webinars and discussion. The key work in terms of the consultation will be delivered through four working groups, each aligned to one of the four thematic areas outlined within the consultation document. In summary, these are:

  1. To whom and where should the Protect Duty apply
  2. What should it require of those who come within scope
  3. How should compliance work
  4. How should government best support and work with partners

Providing qualified, professional advice to PALs

One important aspect of the proposed Duty that relates to how compliance should work is the question of who is best placed and both professionally and occupationally competent to provide the owners and operators of PALs with the requisite advice. There is not currently a single qualification or professional affiliation that seems to satisfy this need, but there are several that might potentially embolden security and risk management professionals to offer their services to those within scope of the Protect Duty requirements once it is passed into law. Arguably, an amalgam of relevant experience (refreshed and given currency through continuing professional development), qualifications/certification (both academic and vocational) and capability would be appropriate.

It is important that the assessment and mitigation advice provided to those in scope provides not only a sound return on their investment but also that it has a realistic prospect of reducing the vulnerability to PALs from attack. The selling point here, is that the users of PALs feel reassured and are not only kept safe but subliminally feel safer. If that can be achieved and such positive impact ‘spun’ on the basis of customer service and public safety it is far more likely that support and buy-in at a senior level will be forthcoming from the organisations responsible for the PALs.

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The issue of who should support the in-scope organisations in delivering on their responsibilities is an aspect that the Security Institute will be working on, in discussion with relevant partners. Is it appropriate, in order to identify a single form of accredited advisor, that a ‘CT Protect Licence’ should be developed? Assuming the short answer is ‘yes’ we need to look at the feasibility of such an initiative and this is part of the Institute’s approach.

Changing attitudes: A holistic approach to security culture required

It is likely that, with some owners and operators of PALs, a change of thinking will be necessary in order for them to deliver on the Duty. There is sometimes a perception that the mention of terrorism within a commercial organisation might ‘scare the staff’. This is where senior level buy-in will come into play.

I recall when health and safety was in its infancy that there was a broad perception it was a set of rules being brought in to stop people doing things that had always worked well in the past. I would suggest that now the H&S legislation has had many years to mature, it is now viewed as an essential part of corporate and organisational responsibility, rather than as something with ‘nuisance value’. The perception of H&S responsibilities is no doubt influenced by the more recent corporate manslaughter legislation. Once it is enacted, we need perceptions in respect of the Protect Duty to be broadly similar.

The consultation document emphasises that in most cases the Protect Duty is likely to result in low or no cost improvements. The realisation to executive level sponsors that this is not all about significant capital expenditure should warm them to it. It is where awareness raising and a more holistic development of a positive security culture across affected organisations and, indeed, all users of PALs, comes in.

One example of this might be where a dynamic lockdown procedure is to be developed and exercised it is essential that the authority level for implementation is not so senior and in such a remote location as to be ineffectual. It is not always easy to persuade people with ultimate responsibility for an asset to delegate authority to shut off access in extremis to those best placed to perceive an immediate threat.

Likewise, any awareness raising of threat mitigation measures, training and faster methods of communication must not be solely the preserve of those with the word ‘security’ in their job title. Within PALs there is every chance it will be the landscaper, the cleaner, the event operative and the like who will, if appropriately made aware, recognise a potential threat first. It is these people who should be able and authorised to initiate first steps in any mitigation plan. This can all be achieved at virtually no cost, save perhaps for some minimal abstraction time in familiarising them with the procedures developed for their PAL, a short ACT e-learning programme and developing an understanding of the part they can play in reducing risk to themselves and others.

To illustrate low-cost measures, I’d cite by way of example a learning point from one of the largest Home Office led live-play exercises to take place in the UK which I was involved with. This was a marauding terrorist attack scenario at one of the country’s largest shopping centres. The exercise, which ran over five hours, involved 8 attackers and 832 role players, many of whom were shop staff. Within the attack phase some retail staff came to the front of their store and activated roller shutters to better protect staff and customers within their premises. This made them vulnerable and, in-role, some became casualties. To remedy this, an option for retailers was to re-route some cabling, giving them the the ability to activate the shutters from a more secure back office without exposing their staff at the store front in extremis.

At the Security Institute we look forward to making a well-informed and significant contribution to the Protect Duty Consultation, and in the period following prior to legislative change, with the ultimate aim to reduce the risk from future attacks in PALs and to help in keeping us all safer.


About the author

Jonathan Schulten is one of the UK’s most experienced Counter Terrorism Security Coordinators (CT SecCo), having served in the Protective Security Command in the Met Police. He has devised and delivered numerous protective security operations for major occasions of state, such as Trooping the Colour, and the visits of foreign heads of state. Jonathan led the national training course for CT SecCos, delivered through the College of Policing, for four years.

He has protected many of the highest profile and largest public events in the UK, such as successive New Year’s Eve celebrations in central London and the London Marathon and led on protective security nationally for the Olympic Torch Relay. Much of his work has involved keeping very large numbers of people safe in publicly accessible locations.

Following his police service Jonathan became Head of Security and Business Resilience for a FTSE100 company which owns and operates a commercial and retail property portfolio valued at £14.8bn, with a footfall of over 35 million people a year. His reach in this role extended from the operational level through to the C suite, affording him oversight of both incident response and crisis management. Jonathan is a non-executive director and Vice Chairman of the Security Institute. He is the sponsoring director for the Security Institute CT Special Interest Group and is leading the Institute’s response to the Protect Duty Consultation process.

 

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