By Jim Costello, CPO, CPP, CHPA
Reprint Protection Officer News - Fall 2001
Why do some organizations have their security officers wear a police or military style uniform while other organizations require their officers to wear a blazer and slacks, and still others have their security officers wear casual or business clothes? The subject of dress code involves nearly all organizations that utilize protection services.
This was more than an academic question to me since, as a security consultant, I am often asked about the dress code of security officers. I decided to conduct a survey or healthcare security directors throughout the country. How are they dealing with the issue?
My survey consisted of open-ended and multiple-choice questions that were mailed, along with returned self-addressed stamped envelopes. Of the 114 questionnaires mailed, 77 were returned for a response rate of 68%.
Questions and Answers
- Are security officers in your hospital:
- Employees of your organization (63)
- Contract security officers (6)
- Combination of your own employees and contract workers (8)
Some 82% of those responding have exclusively in house security officers. Some 8% used only contract and about 10% used a combination.
- What type of uniforms and/or clothing is worn by the 63 proprietary organizations:
- Police or military style (48)
- Blazer and slacks with a security of hospital patch on the breast pocket (10)
- The employee’s own personal, business or casual clothing (1)
- Combination of the above uniforms or clothing (4)
In an overwhelming number (71) responses, uniform maintenance or cleaning was not a responsibility of the organization. Further, 71 respondents indicated that there is no uniform maintenance allowance provided for officers.
On a separate issue, 69 responded that their officers are not armed. Five said they are armed and three did not respond to the question.
Of the 48 respondents to a question asking the main reason for outfitting security officers in police or military style uniforms:
20 felt it was a crime deterrent
23 felt it was a easier to identify the officers in uniform during an emergency
3 respondents gave the reasons the officers liked the uniforms
2 gave reasons that the officers would not wear the uniforms off duty
The blazer slacks group had 10 responses:
6 note pubic relations as the main reason
3 wanted a low-key security officer
1 respondent said that blazer-slacks was chosen not to antagonize employees, visitors, and patients.
Of the hospitals and healthcare institutions that outfit officers in police/military styles, 59 of the respondents chose colors different from the police departments that serve their facility, 14 chose the same color and 3 respondents did not answer the question.
The results of this survey indicate that when a security director views crime as a major factor at the facility, then the uniform is far more likely to be the police or military style. The reasons most often cited for this choice are: crime deterrent and case of identifying officers.
When healthcare facilities officers wear blazer/slacks uniforms, it is most frequently a decision based on emphasizing the public relations aspects of a security presence and keeping the security officer's profile low-key.
In my opinion, the benefits of wearing police or military style uniforms outweigh those of wearing a blazer and slacks. I believe one of the security officers major responsibilities is to prevent crime. I feel that experience has demonstrated this goal is better accomplished in uniform.
Note: Has your organization made a switch in uniform type recently? Were there any changes in facility crime statistics or has there been a discernible change in public response? Please send your observations to me. I am doing additional research on security uniforms and would appreciate your opinions.