Chris Hertig, former college professor, member of the IFPO board of directors and author of the essay, The Forgotten Soldiers of the Invisible Empire, has penned another titled Killed In The Line Of Duty: Sheepdogs and Forgotten Soldiers. Security officers are often first on the scene of a traumatic event and are tasked with protecting the citizenry, therefore making them sheepdogs. Unfortunately, they are also, without a doubt, forgotten.
Sheepdogs -- those who protect society, the Sheep, from the Wolves -- predatory criminals, terrorists and madmen -- come in various shapes and sizes. Police and military are thought of first and foremost. As well they should. But there are other Sheepdogs whose work is vital, yet unrecognized at best and unknown at worst.
Security officers are the largest of the unknown Sheepdogs, outnumbering police by a 3 or 4 to 1 ratio. That’s an estimate. A good guess. Nobody really knows, yet we continually reference incomplete, outdated government statistics on the number of security officers in the US.
There cannot be any real Homeland Security without professional security personnel. Period. These folks control access to facilities and people. They find suspicious backpacks before they detonate. They are the “Initial Responders” to crime, violence, accident, fire, etc.; first on the scene to do what is necessary. What is most important. They are the ones who do the preliminary investigation of crimes and other loss events. A security officer discovered the Watergate break- in; but one example of the importance of security folks in the initial investigative process.
Massive numbers of security officers face significant danger. There are more security officers killed by bad guys in the US than police officers, but no one notices. They are not in the news media and they don’t go viral on social media. Nor are they entered into any government data bases save OSHA.
If a security officer has or had any police affiliation, this is what gets the most media coverage. This is what the public sees. The vital security function that he or she is performing gets pushed aside. Eliminated. So too does the vulnerability the officer faced in fulfilling that role.
OSHA and PrivateOfficer.org have some data on security officers killed on duty. Clearly more needs to be done in the tracking and dissemination of these numbers. FBI or other government data collection may be in order. This would give us a better handle on Homeland Security, especially when 85% of the nation’s infrastructure is privately owned. We’ve been very slow to recognize that and slower still to work with it. And slowness in the face of threats doesn’t keep us safe.
Officers murdered on duty is a major issue, but an even bigger issue is attacks on officers resulting in serious injury. Some of these are permanently disabling, taking the officer out of the workforce. This is true for both police and security personnel. The examination of serious injuries is important as there is roughly 30 times the number of serious injuries as deaths. We can better assess causal factors by reviewing serious injuries. And we won’t repeat the officer survival movement’s problem with only looking at the tip of the iceberg (officers murdered on duty).
Security officers are unseen. Their work is primarily proactive. If they’re successful there’s no news coverage. When investigations by them are conducted it is often not part of any public record. Their work with police goes unreported in the press release and unmentioned at any resulting press conference.
An incredible amount of prejudice against them is apparent for those willing to look, to acknowledge it. It’s fed by the entertainment industry and our own ignorance. Hollywood and YouTube portray security officers as buffoons -- "rent-a-cops" and “square badges." There is almost never an objective presentation of an officer and the important role they play.
This has a negative effect on the recruitment and retention of security folks. We need more managers who can address the many dynamic challenges in the asset protection world. These managers generally start their careers as security officers. It’s also is a major factor in career destruction for Young Pups: They think “Paul Blart, Mall Cop” and miss out on the experience and extensive networking opportunities open to them working security in a shopping mall. They’ve lost their future and society has probably lost some good Sheepdogs.
We need Sheepdogs! We can’t forget them and should never demean them. What small things can we all do to improve this situation?
Chris Hertig wrote Protection Officer Survival, the first book focused on the safety concerns of security officer as well as Who Are The Forgotten Soldiers? in the February 1993 issue of Security Management. He is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a Certified Protection Officer Instructor (CPOI and is on the board of directors with the International Foundation for Protection Officers
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International Foundation for Protection Officers Mission Statement
Mission Statement Part I.
The International Foundation for Protection Officers provides professional learning opportunities for security practitioners, to impart the knowledge, skills, and competencies required to maximize job performance and enhance career potential.
Purpose: to make a positive difference in the quality of the participant’s job performance and elevate the professional status of students who partake of our learning opportunities.
Business: to supply committed security practitioners with a quality education to help achieve their highest potential and provide recognized accreditation for successful completion of educational goals.
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Commitment to Excellence: To be the recognized center of excellence and primary provider of education and training products and services to the security industry.
Mission Statement Part II.
“The International Foundation for Protection Officers is committed to the support and professional development of protection officers and supervisors. Through advocacy, promoting training standards, and providing accessible training, education and certification opportunities, we seek to enhance their professional standing as well as increase and diversify the value of the vital services they provide.”