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October 21, 2020


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Security officers

Survey reveals public perception of security officers ranks only ‘slightly ahead of traffic wardens’ as essential role

In a survey entitled, Perceptions of the Security Officer, carried out by YouGov, it was found that the public perception of security officers as playing an ‘essential role’ in the UK was ranked ninth out of 10 in a list of essential services.

BSIA-SecurityOfficers-20The survey was carried out by YouGov on behalf of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the Security Institute (SyI) and the Security Commonwealth (SyCom), as part of the ‘Hidden Workforce’ campaign. Its objective was to understand the current perception of security officers amongst the British public and to understand the extent of the key issues they face, namely potential lack of respect, recognition and underestimation of their role.

The campaign that the BSIA is running with the Security Institute and the Security Commonwealth, ‘the Hidden Workforce – resetting the perceptions of the security officer’, aims to change this perception of security officers in the long term and to reset the perception of the security officer as a respected, valued, professional service provider, contributing to and creating a safe and secure environment that is critical to protecting people, places, and property.

While 31% of those polled believed that security officers are fundamental to keeping the UK safe and secure, with 41% indicating respect and a feeling of safety due to the work that security officers carry out, the role of the security officer ranked 9th out of 10 essential services, behind postal workers and pharmacists, and just ahead of traffic wardens, who were ranked 10th. When asked about these roles during COVID-19, security officers were not mentioned at all as an essential service.

The top three were NHS workers, nurses and care workers.

When asked about which characteristics describe the personality of a security officer, the highest scores were ‘honest’, ‘alert’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘brave’ and confident, but some respondents looked at officers as being ‘authoritative’, ‘rigid’, ‘burly’, ‘threatening’ and ‘unintelligent’. Respondents also felt that the crimes that security officers help prevent are shoplifting, anti-social behaviour and petty crime, and that officers should only work closely with the police if asked.

Mike Reddington, Chief Executive, BSIA, said: “The results of the YouGov survey, Perceptions of the Security Officer, highlight that, whilst a good level of the general public feel safe and reassured in the presence of a security officer, they do not see their services as essential and even less so during the recent pandemic. Although security officers were recognised by the UK Government as key workers during this time, it seems that the perception of the role they play in our daily lives is still at a low level and this needs to be addressed urgently.”

Rick Mounfield, Chief Executive, the Security Institute, said: “The public seem unaware of the critical role security officers play in supporting the Police in deterring crime and terrorism, let alone their intervention when theft, robbery and attacks occur. The survey demonstrates that the average citizen in the UK pays little to no attention to what a security officer is doing.

“However, this is not all bad, because a good security posture should be low key until crisis hits. The important aspect is that the public should at least, recognise what security officers provide, ensuring their safety. These are the people they will look to in a crisis.”

To reflect a modern inclusive and diverse security workforce, the BSIA has also introduced new terminology across its communications platforms. The Association will be discontinuing the use of the terms ‘security guarding’, ‘manpower’, ‘manned guarding’, ‘security guard(s)’ and ‘security guarding section’, replacing them with ‘Security Officer Services’ and ‘security officer’.

The YouGov survey was commissioned in September, with over 2000 respondents aged between 18 and 55 from the ABC1 and C2DE backgrounds.

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Jo Ellshaw
Jo Ellshaw
October 27, 2020 2:29 pm

Sadly this comes as no surprise to many of us in the industry. Whilst great improvements have been made in the sector with the onset of licensing and training etc. It is abundantly clear that the job still attracts way too many so called ‘burly knuckle draggers’ (not my term, don’t shoot the messenger). To some it seems that the job gives legitimate excuse / reason for ‘knocking em about a bit’ and I have come across this attitude far too often during various deployments. The recent attempt by government to turn us into what the public perceive as Rent-a-Cops,… Read more »

James Moore
October 28, 2020 9:58 am
Reply to  Jo Ellshaw

Thanks for your comment Jo, certainly some valid points!