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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
October 28, 2022


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IFSEC Interviews

“Security companies must evolve towards providing ‘blended solutions’ or risk becoming irrelevant” – In conversation with IFSEC Global Influencer Eddie Sorrells

Having been named on the 2022 IFSEC Global Influencers list in the association figures and thought leaders’ category, we speak to Eddie Sorrells, COO and General Counsel of DSI Security Services. We hear Eddie’s thoughts on the trend towards providing ‘blended security solutions’, as well as how electronic security continues to grow at a rapid pace and the impact it has on the working lives of security professionals at all levels.

Eddie Sorrells, COO and General Counsel of DSI Security Services

Can you give a brief overview of DSI Security Services as it stands today?

DSI Security Services originated in 1969 when Sheriff A.B. Clark started a security service firm, in response to a request from a construction company building a nearby nuclear plant. From its humble beginnings, DSI has expanded, currently operating in 33 states across the United States. Over the past 10 years we have begun to implement a strategic focus on “blended solutions” by offering our customers not only security personnel but cutting-edge technology solutions as well. We’re still privately owned, which gives us the flexibility to react quickly and provide customised solutions to our customers.

I currently oversee all operations of the company and I serve as DSI’s Chief Legal Officer. Each day my main responsibility is to ensure that every customer of DSI is having their needs met, our employees feel a part of a great organisation, and the company is protected from any legal and/or regulatory threats.

Can you summarise how legal strategy impacts on the provision of security services, and how much overlap is there between legal process and security?

Increasingly, there is a large overlap. The security practitioner of 2022 and beyond must be well-versed in legal strategy – at least at a basic level. The contract security industry has seen a marked increase in claims being filed followed by large settlements or verdicts. Everything from contracts, post orders, and even your marketing material can impact your legal liability. That was my main motivation for writing my first book Security Litigation: Best Practices for Managing and Preventing Security-Related Lawsuits.

It is unlikely to win any literary awards or reach bestseller status, but hopefully it has offered some practical advice to security practitioners. Bottom Line: It pays to make sure your in-house or outside counsel is involved in your operations, marketing, etc.

Your business is split into three main sectors – uniformed, electronic, and consulting. Can you say what the percentage of total revenue each sector accounts for, and which one is showing the highest growth rate at present?

Our uniform division is by far the largest revenue driver, and likely will be in the future. But electronic security is growing at a rapid pace. I attribute this to two factors. Firstly, we have evolved into looking at our services as one set of solutions that are customised based on the threat and vulnerabilities our customers are facing (i.e. we are not beholden to tradition but what works).

Secondly, many end-users are starting to realise how valuable technology can be in their overall security plan. The consulting component is inherent in all we do. The end-user of today does not want a “staffing agency”. They want a trusted security partner who can look at all angles and be proactive.

The old way of thinking must disappear, and we have to be willing to go in new directions. This may mean looking at the security industry as one industry – not in traditional silos. If you are solely a “guard” company in 2022 and beyond, you must evolve or risk becoming irrelevant in the near future.

What do you see as the main threats and issues for the security industry at present?

One of the biggest issues we are facing now is talent acquisition at all levels. From the security officer to the C-Suite, we must find ways to attract more people to the profession. I am grateful that I was able to ascend from a security officer to what I do now, but where is that opportunity for young professionals today? We have made great strides, but there’s still a long way to go. In the last two-three years we have experienced an unprecedented labour crisis, but even when we emerge, the leaders in our industry must step forward and provide a pathway to success to the bright minds that follow us.


Broadening that out, what are the main issues for security management professionals?

Cyber remains one of the most serious threats for security management professionals, because it can impact any organisation at any time. Gone are the days when that was “someone else’s problem”. Regardless of what sector you are in, this is a major threat – even down to the security officer on the post, the cyber threat is very real. It will require adopting a new mindset that the security industry is “converging”, and we must bring in all disciplines to make sure we are protecting all assets and information.

The old way of thinking must disappear, and we have to be willing to go in new directions. This may mean looking at the security industry as one industry – not in traditional silos. If you are solely a “guard” company in 2022 and beyond, you must evolve or risk becoming irrelevant in the near future.

Do you think the worlds of police, criminal justice, and security would benefit from working more closely together and understanding each other’s roles and priorities?

They would benefit greatly from working together. This is occurring more in the US merely based on circumstances. Law Enforcement often deals with finite resources and has to work closely with private security for information and to achieve the goal of keeping communities safe.

There is also a trend toward “private policing” and using off-duty law enforcement in the security industry. This will continue, and both sectors must reinforce their partnership. The best way to do this remains open communication and collaboration, and a clear understanding and appreciation of what role each can play. ASIS International and other associations do a good job of bringing both worlds together, and I look forward to this continuing.


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How is technology impacting the role of security professionals, and is there a ‘sweet spot’ between the role of people and of technology?

I have been fortunate to witness the first real revolutionary wave of technology disrupting the security industry. I have been giving a presentation to security groups lately entitled The Evolution of the Security Officer where I talk a lot about how technology has transformed the role of the security professional. Everything from time-keeping to video analytics, the industry is better because of technology.

In my opinion, the sweet spot is what actually works in each environment. As security professionals, we must have only one goal: What is the best method to protect our customer’s assets? Many times, that solution is technology. The days of one security officer endlessly patrolling acres of property on foot or in a vehicle with no real tech support are thankfully coming to an end. Now that officers can be used more efficiently and we can take advantage of robotics, autonomous response devices, etc., to provide superior service, why wouldn’t we?

How do you ensure that your security operations run as sustainably as possible?

One disadvantage to the technology component is the dependency we have on it to run our operations. To sustain our operations, we must continually build in redundancies to make sure we are not impacted by a cyber event, natural disaster, etc. We have experienced this in real-time during natural disasters and thankfully it has performed well. When hard times hit, we can’t afford to have our customers call and no one is there to answer.

Can you tell us a bit about your wider industry activities with the National Association of Security Companies and ASIS International?

I currently serve as Vice Chair for the National Association of Security Companies (NASCO) and on the ASIS International global board of directors. Both associations are unique in their mission and purpose, but both are vitally important to our industry. NASCO is the largest contract security association, representing private security companies that employ more than 500,000 of the nation’s most highly trained security officers servicing the public and private sectors.

With ASIS International, our members represent virtually every industry in the public and private sectors and organisations of all sizes. From entry-level managers to CSOs to CEOs, from security veterans to consultants, and those transitioning from law enforcement or the military, the ASIS community is global and diverse.

One of the greatest experiences of my 31-year career has been to work side-by-side with the men and women involved in these organisations, whose sole purpose is to leave the profession better than they found it.

What of the future?

I feel we stand at a critical point in our industry and profession, one where we must make a true shift toward the future, and take advantage of every tool at our disposal, to counter new and emerging threats. And while there are a lot of challenges, I have never been more excited to be involved in the mission of making a true difference with the work we do.


About Eddie Sorrells, COO & General Counsel, DSI Security Services

Eddie Sorrells serves as COO and General Counsel for DSI Security Services. Eddie has 31 years of experience and is frequently asked to speak on the latest industry trends and topics and is a leading voice on the evolution of security services. He has appeared on many security media platforms and is the author of Security Litigation: Best Practices for Managing and Preventing Security-Related Lawsuits. Eddie has also been featured in national publications, such as the Wall Street Journal. He is triple crown certified: CPP, PSP, and PCI, and has mentored fellow security professionals in the fundamentals of proper risk assessments, legal strategy, and the roles and responsibilities of security officers. Eddie has also served as an expert witness consulting on key legal issues impacting private security companies. He serves as a board member for The National Association of Security Companies and joined the ASIS International Global Board in 2021.

Listen to the IFSEC Insider podcast!

Each month, the IFSEC Insider (formerly IFSEC Global) Security in Focus podcast brings you conversations with leading figures in the physical security industry. Covering everything from risk management principles and building a security culture, to the key trends ahead in tech and initiatives on diversity and inclusivity, the podcast keeps security professionals up to date with the latest hot topics in the sector.

Available online, and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, tune in for an easy way to remain up to date on the issues affecting your role.


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