Security past, present & future
In 1864 Abraham Lincoln wrote, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”
Growing up in the London suburbs a century later, my experience of the security industry was limited to a very smart Commissionaire making his way into the city on my school bus and a Securicor dog-handler neighbour.
Fast forward just 50 more years and security is an ever-present aspect in all our lives from the moment we wake up, deactivate our home alarms, view our incoming emails, visit the supermarket, enter public transport systems… the list can go on and on. We must ask why?
Is it because the world is a more hostile place, or that we have a greater awareness of threat, or a lower tolerance of risk? I surmise that it is a combination of all those things, enhanced by advances in communication and technology as well as cultural changes.
It is essential that, in order not to evade responsibility, those of us in the security sector use all the tools at our disposal today to shape that future. To enable us to do this, we must consider three key areas that security in the next 20–30 years will be influenced by:
- The effects of global events
- The success of partnerships and community ownership
- The continued building of professionalism and trust
The effects of global events
Global events continue to shape our future. COP26 sought international collaboration to reduce the effects of global warming. Quite apart from the ‘here and now’ issues of handling protest and potential disorder, the shift away from fossil fuels and current methods of food production is likely to have an impact on economies and world populations. Increased migration on economic grounds, added to current mass migration from conflict, will bring its own challenges in keeping people, including the migrants themselves, safe and secure and in raising tensions between states.
We discussed at CONSEC 2021, the annual conference of the Association of Security Consultants, how hostile actions at state level can permeate the very systems that we all rely on for business and leisure. The potential effects of globalisation on the supply of materials, including the technologies used to protect us, from inter-state tensions or conflict is real. Global supply chains themselves have been severely tested and found to be vulnerable as a result of recent events such as Brexit and the COVID pandemic.
Terrorism, both internationally inspired and home-grown, is not likely to diminish and will continue to dominate security planning in a disproportionate manner for decades to come. That said, the world-leading UK CONTEST counter terrorism strategy continues to evolve and the ‘Prevent, Protect, Prepare and Pursue’ operational strands, led and supported by The Security Service and Counter Terrorism Policing, have proved themselves to be effective across a number of crime and security related activities.
Partnerships and Community ownership
Shrinking public sector resources has led to a greater sharing of responsibility between public and commercial security sectors. Although gradual to start with, the changes have matured and are now likely, in some cases, to be enshrined in legislation, for instance ‘The Protect Duty’ (Martyn’s Law).
Paul Greaney, Counsel to the Manchester Arena Inquiry, asked delegates at CONSEC 2021, “How did Salman Abedi, a person who had achieved nothing significant in his life, manage to penetrate successive rings of security to detonate a bomb and take the lives of twenty-two people and injure many more at the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017?” This tragedy and the lessons learned from it as well as other terrorist attacks remain a real challenge for inter-organisational cooperation before, during and after such outrages, and which will rightly feature high in our thinking for many years to come.
Already, companies such as ‘My Local Bobby’, ‘TM Eye’ and ‘Catch a Thief’ are operating successfully in territory that was very much in the public sector domain through patrol, investigation, detention and even prosecution, often in partnership with police and prosecuting services. Initiatives such as the Cross-sector Safety & Security Communications (CSSC) network demonstrates how public and private sector security information can be shared and acted upon effectively.
Community-based groups have also grown as citizens, aided by increased knowledge and technologies, have more readily accepted their own role in maintaining personal and community safety.
Professionalism and Trust
Campaigns of misinformation and conspiracy theory, either by state or interest groups, do have destabilising effects on safety and security. QAnon, for instance, and foreign intelligence services, have demonstrated the power of social media in spreading harmful messaging leading to harmful actions. The security sector needs to counter such messaging, including through the use of social media, to build and engender trust.
Regulation and licensing, whilst important as a professional baseline, should not be so bureaucratised to stifle innovation and forward movement.
Trust is most likely to be achieved through increased professionalism and the various UK security trade bodies have launched innovative initiatives in this pursuit. Initiatives such as developing younger security professionals, through improving equity, diversity and inclusion, through to achieving Registered and Chartered status, help to build public perceptions and image. Harnessing these joint activities, together with the work of technical specialist interest groups, should serve as a force multiplier between private and public sectors. The Security Commonwealth, whose strap line is ‘Stronger Together’, potentially provides a workable platform for promoting and promulgating such innovation without diluting the efforts and impacts of individual associations.
There has never been a more relevant and exciting time to be involved with the UK security sector. The threats and risks are diverse and ever-evolving, the opportunities are without bounds. As society and technology continue to evolve, those that mean us harm will continue to take advantage of the situation. The challenge for today’s and for future security professionals is to remain ahead of the game, to predict, to react and to resolve such security issues before they inflict harm.
Chairman of the Association of Security Consultants and former Chair of the Security Commonwealth