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  • Joseph Crimmins

Private Security or Concierge Service?

Many office buildings and large commercial spaces have contract security officers on site that are labeled as “Security.” Are they in fact security, and what is their role during a Workplace Violence or Active Shooter situation inside the building or on campus? If you are the owner or property manager of an office building or large commercial space, what is your expectation? Whether it is preventing an Active Threat situation, or responding to it, what is the expectation of the unarmed security officers? If you are a business owner leasing that space for your employees and customers, you may have signed that lease with the belief that your building and employees are safer because they have security officers available on a moment’s notice. What is your expectation? Before a crisis occurs, all parties need to determine if their expectations match. Different expectations could result in injury or death during a crisis, and will definitely result in litigation to determine liability and financial damages.

Unarmed security officers that are used effectively should “observe and report,” not necessarily respond and control an Active Threat. More than likely they don’t have the training or tools they need to respond to an Active Threat. Or worse, they may be the attacker’s first target because their clothing identifies them as security. Additionally, false expectations of what security can do during an Active Threat can have deadly consequences for more than just the responding security officer. If employees are contacting security rather than 911 and expecting unarmed security officers to counter the threat, this could result in delayed calls to 911, or no calls to 911.

Illinois law authorizes the use of private security officers that are used for “the prevention, observation, or detection of any unauthorized activity on private property…” But are the security officers in your building doing that, or are their duties more akin to a greeter at a store, or a concierge desk at a hotel? There is no expectation that greeters and personnel at concierge desks will keep you safe. As a result, their employers have no legal duty if there is an act of violence and litigation inevitably follows.

Effective security is proactive interaction with visitors. The interaction with a security officer may be enough to make a bad guy go elsewhere. They know that they are on someone’s radar or camera system. The officer can ask friendly and welcoming questions, and the questions should request verifiable information. In a high-rise office building, rather than asking a wandering visitor, “Do you know where you are going,” ask “What company are you looking for?” If the person doesn’t know, it is worth a follow up question. Asking the first question will simply get you the answer of “Yes.”

If the visitor can’t answer basic questions, or is deceptive or agitated, then this is valuable information that you may have a potential problem. Greeters and concierge services do not perform this valuable service.

Building owners and managers have to decide for themselves what service they want to provide, security or concierge. If security, they should conduct a risk assessment of the facility, create a Crisis Plan for the facility, conduct training to test the Crisis Plan and emergency communications, and establish a protocol for their security officers.

Having an Active Shooter/Workplace Violence Crisis Plan for your building is vital, but no plan will work as intended without practicing it. There should be ongoing training drills, and each subsequent drill should include additional variables and challenges.

For help with Active Shooter and Workplace Violence issues, contact Joseph Crimmins today!



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