Task Forces


Recognizing Security as an Essential Service

By Orlando Mardner


The private security industry plays a vital role in the protection and safety of life and property in the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world. In the contemporary society, the private security is not only crucial in protecting critical infrastructure systems, properties and lives, but also for ensuring cyber security, conduct investigations, install and monitor alarm systems, and CCTV cameras. Previous studies have examined private security personnel, companies and agencies, with a central focus on the roles of private security, growth and trends. Besides, most studies examines how private security compares to other disciplines. In this essay, the emphasis is on roles and responsibilities of private security, the status of private security as an essential service and the connection between private security and other essential services. The essay further outlines strengths and weaknesses of private security amidst globalization and emerging issues.

Security strategies for uncertainties

In a world of uncertainties, both private and public policing key role is to ensure the security of citizens and their properties. Britain remains both secure and vulnerable in the ever-changing society due to technological advancements, emerging health crisis, unconventional attacks, biological weapons, cyber-attack and terrorism (Cabinet Office, 2010). The growing threats and uncertainties calls for national and global commitments to redefine the position and role of private security as an essential service in the society. Political, social and economic openness of countries in the world, the United Kingdom included, brings great opportunities, and at the same time threats (Cabinet Office, 2010). The COVID-19 pandemic for instance, gained its entry within the UK boundaries from the countries of origin via air and other means of transport, and networking with other countries. All the pertinent issues calls for a radical transformation in private security sector, and clearly defining whether the entire industry provides essential services, or a section of services offered by private security personnel, which falls under essential category.

When a tragedy strikes, the national security face challenges dealing with the situation. This is because most countries do not meet the bear minimum of the ratio of police officers to population recommended by the United Nations. The UN recommends a ratio of 222 police officers for every 100,000 citizens, which translates to one police officer for every 450 citizens (Durch and Ker, 2013). The involvement of private security companies by the UK government in times of emergencies has the potentiality of reducing pressure in safeguarding lives and properties, and managing crises. A national security strategy prepared in advance not only provide guidelines for dealing with emergencies, but also provide room for gathering the necessary tools, and the engagement with private security guards. While the Cabinet Office and Great Britain. Parliament (2010) gives credit to intelligence officers, armed forces, diplomats and police for protecting the United Kingdom citizens safe at home, and protecting the country’s interests oversee, private security equally play a significant role in the protection of lives and property.

The government departments, parastatals and other key parties dependent on private security services owe the practitioners and the private companies an immense debt of gratitude on grounds of their commitments towards detection and prevention of crime, and safeguarding of property and lives. Because private security officers are not new to interaction with the public, the services they provide, if not, should be considered essential, upon which their withdrawal would endanger health, life and personal safety of part or the whole population (Gernigon, Odero & Guido, 2000). The role of the police during an emergency is set out in statute as opposed to private guards; hence left to fill a need, or with no role to play at all.

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered calls by key stakeholders in the United Kingdom for the government to consider private security officers essential workers during the pandemic. The international labour organization (ILO) highlights services considered essential, which include the hospital sector, communication and information technology, financial services, transportation and logistics, law enforcement, public safety and first responders. These services intertwines with private security guards daily operations. The calls for policy makers to consider private security an essential service, and the security guards essential workers is well thought out. This is because during emergencies, such as the 9/11 terror attacks, the London bombings of 7-7, 2005 and the riots of the north of England in 2001, caused security challenges, which led to loss of lives and properties (Garbaye and Latour, 2016). While security is broad, societal security narrows to physical security against violent attacks, social cohesion and collective wellbeing of the society. Private security companies ensure the realization of societal protection and safety.

Public security and private security partnerships.

Effective partnerships between private and public security sector necessitates core policing, which require security practitioners to have specialized skill set, and respond to a variety of service demands, order maintenance and community expectations (Montgomery and Griffiths, 2016). Core policing recommend initiatives geared towards improving the quality of life in communities, sustaining partnerships with the community and reassuring the community residents of reduced fear of crime. Montgomery and Griffiths (2016) argues that the private security, which was traditionally viewed in terms of private investigators and security guards have expanded its scope over the past decades. Today, the sector take up many tasks traditionally performed by the public police. In view of Montgomery and Griffiths (2016), expanding and increasing the role of private security ensures public safety and security. The authors’ notion reiterates the growing calls by key players in private security sector in the United Kingdom. Not only should the UK government consider putting into law private security as an essential service, but should also ensure better regulations and the adoption of certain frontline roles such as being the primary respondents to certain emergencies and incidents. Partnerships between private and public security has several benefits. The benefits include reduced emergency response time, faster and efficient intelligence gathering, and enhance protection of critical infrastructure.

Although private-public security partnerships in times of crisis such as the ongoing COVID-19 threat is crucial, myriads of barriers exists; thus, stopping the recognition of private security as an essential service contrary to energy employees, public workers, the police and armed forces. Other known essential services include water and wastewater workers, critical manufacturers and other services (Montgomery and Griffiths, 2016), which cannot be withdrawn under whatever circumstance. The ambiguity surrounding the roles and responsibilities of private guards, competency concerns of private security companies, lack of trust, and barriers to information sharing between private security, public police and the community, and misunderstanding predispose the failed partnerships between public and private security sector.

Roles and responsibilities of private security visa a Vis public security.

Private security guards perform various duties and functions aimed at ensuring proper and safe working of organizations, businesses and institutions they are deployed to. Private officers are responsible for ensuring the safety of people, property, and other valuables. Although private guards are only mandated to patrol the location assigned to them, other expectations include attending to emergencies, and working hand in hand with the rescue services such as firefighters and police officers.

          To begin with, security contractors are responsible for people's and the premises' protection against any inhuman actions, which includes criminal damages or theft. Upon detection of any form of unlawful activity, private security officers have an obligation to collect all the available evidence at the crime vicinity, and report the incidence to the police officers for further investigation. To that effect, organizations set rules and regulations to govern the working of the employees such as loitering; which security guards are responsible for ensuring that the employees adhere to the rules (Anderson, 2001). Contrary, public security does not have to raise the alarm in case of crime; but, allowed to arrest the suspect.  Moreover, security personnel are also responsible for preventing damages and wastages. (Muuss, 1995) writes that both private and public security guards are required to be watchful all the time to avert careless usage of resources resulting in losses. Besides, the officers prevent theft within the organization.

          In addition, both private and public security guards are required to do active and regular checking of safety risks. According to (Anderson, 2001), security guards ensure safety of clients and property through vigilance and quick response to emergencies. Therefore, any form of hazardous occurrences such as fire outbreaks or security threats require high levels of preparedness amongst security officers. Security officers are to be keen on detecting gas leakages since it can cause fire outbreak, all gas cylinders are to be checked and ensured they are in good condition all the time. Nonetheless, tampered parts of the building such as doors and windows should be in good condition; a responsibility assigned to security guards.  Besides, there is need for controlling entry and exit points; a duty performed by security personnel. In addition, frisking is a crucial thing at any entry and exit points, an important precautionary measure in ensuring that no one comes in with objects or items that can harm others. As per ((Muuss, 1995), sometimes security guards need to make sure visitors coming into the premises signs visitors' records book, indicating entry time and the expected exit time .In some organizations, they are given the responsibility of collecting identity cards of visitors; this forces them not to stay for long within the premise.

          Furthermore, security officers attend to emergencies. In his book, (Rice, 2007), points that, to make sure the guards respond to urgent issues, security training becomes a necessity. However, this entails creation of awareness of what is required from the guards as well as reaching the scene within the shortest time possible. In cases of very urgent emergencies, the security officers contacts the service providers to ensure immediate vacation of the premise.

          To add, private security guards puts individuals causing suspicion under a house arrest. Nevertheless, the guards avails reasonable evidence worth believing that an individual has stolen or has a plan to take a commodity within the premise. According to (Alexandre, 1997), section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, allows arrest of a suspect if: i) the suspect is in the process of committing a crime, and you have enough reasons for suspecting. ii) The crime is already committed and the individual you have substantive reasons against is guilty of the offence. However, (Anderson, 2001) confirms that this is achievable if security guards upon training expect questions like; did you see the person hiding some items picked from the warehouse? Did the person leave the warehouse before paying for the items? Have you been watching them throughout the time?

Alexandre (1997) reassures that if the guard has genuine answers to these questions, then he/she is right to put the suspect under a house arrest. In addition, the private security guard should not apply any kind of force on them. As per (Rice, 2007), the best thing for a security guard to do is to introduce themselves to the suspect, their role. Thereafter, call the police immediately while staying with the suspect until the police arrives. Consequently, use of force is required if there is the need, but it has to be ‘reasonable’. According to section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, one may ‘use as much force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large’. Contrary, public security guards makes an arrest of the suspect.

Both private security guards and public security officers have the right to search a person's property in case of any loss but not forcefully. (Muuss, 1995), states that the officers requests individuals to be frisked permission since they cannot do it without their consent. Equally, the person who has undergone the loss must also be aware of the searching process. The office can also searches for a suspicious person's ownership in an attempt to know his/her identity.

Cybersecurity is another form of private security. It entails ensuring that technology is safe from hackers and cybercriminals who may get access to other people’s data. Hackers and cybercriminals get these personal data and sell them since it is a lucrative market. (Rice, 2007), writes that hackers are a threat to the majority of the technological subscribers, lowering the confidence of using computers, mobile phones and any other technical device. Hackers are creative and smart naturally and to outsmart them; a need for cybersecurity pros is opted for. Therefore, it calls for the organization to employ Information Technology security professionals to safeguard the users. Besides, the Information Technology professionals must have a vast knowledge in networking and programming which the epicenter of hackers and cybercriminals.

          To that effect, Information Technology security personnel comes up with and put into use control systems that are for access and identification of workers. In addition, IT personnel also ensures adherence to security practices by carrying out regular audits. Besides, IT professionals also sets up endpoint discovery and avoidance devices to scare away dirty hacks. Another function IT persons do is to keep close watch of network and applications workings to ensure they are active regularly. Nonetheless, IT officers also ensures applications are up to date by setting up patch management systems as well as setting up recovery systems to ensure all lost data are quickly restored. Lastly, IT persons works close with human resource management and other workers, creating awareness on ways of identifying activities that cause suspicion

          Nevertheless, private security sectors also uses canine security dogs in the UK in safeguarding small unit home and in other organization premises. (Alexandre, 1997), highlights that these dogs are effectively used where search is done since security dogs are sensitive to smell and hearing than human beings. Security dogs can detect danger earlier and raise the alarm before it hits the premise. Canine security dogs are cheaper to have in a site as a deterrent. However, the dogs are trained and handled by personnel who are certified by the licensing body. 

Customer care is also vital as far as private and public security is concerned. According to (Walker, 2006), all companies need a customer service skill; a call for training of the employees on how to handle customers. It hurts when a company representative with fewer customer skills treats a customer arrogantly, leading to loss of regular customers who might opt to shift to other similar service providers. An excellent customer care service will helps the company in retaining its customers; both new and regular. However, private security companies trains guards to make eye contact with the customers to show the customer that you are giving them attention. The security officers also make everything that produces sound silent and focus on the customer’s mouth. In addition, to achieve this, guards acts as if you are the customer. 

          Besides, customer care guards empathizes with the customer, which is an acknowledgement of customer’s problem and trying to fix them. (Alexandre, 1997), also adds that getting or trying to get solutions to client's problems is an essential mandate performed by the customer care security personnel. In case the customer care officers are stuck, they consult the more competent employer. Customer care specialists also listens to clients and have the customer's complaints as their own. The specialists listen to the exact words of the customer and ensure they are present and attending to the customer. (Walker, 2006) insinuates that customer care professionals greeting clients with a smiley face is important to the company since it keeps them. If possible, officer mentions customer names; when both greeting and in the process of handling them because it is proven that customers love listening to their names being mentioned. 

          In summary, security guards, customer care personnel, cybersecurity professionals, and security dogs have different roles and responsibilities depending on their working area. Every working place requires different training depending on the functions expected from them. Security personnel deployed in homes and other premises requires no license as opposed to those employed by agencies that must have SIA (Security Industry Authority) license.

Evolution of private security service.

          The concept of private security has been in existence for centuries. The sector has undergone an array of changes from the ancient civilization to contemporary society as people attempt to protect their properties as well as families (Button and Stiernstedt, 2017). The private security sector has evolved significantly; it provides a spectrum of security solutions for various clients who operate in a complex environment. The private security companies have emerged globally as they serve clients such as NGOs, global companies, and governments, among other sectors (Button, 2003).

Initially, wealthy people hired security agencies or persons to protect their lives and properties. In ancient times, security was mainly a private matter, handled primarily by private security firms. Button and Stiernsted (2017) notes that the moment our ancestors figured the difference between ‘ours’ and ‘mine’ in the context of wealth, was the genesis of the establishment of the private security sector. The ancient people used physical security such as weapons, walls, cliff dwellings, and gates, among others to protect themselves.  Besides, the old rulers appointed security enforcement people to protect them. The ancient private security system defined the evolution of early police and fire protection services as well as the private security service that has been existence for centuries.

Button and Stiernsted (2017) opines that the concept of private security can be traced to the 13th century B.C. in ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, and Ancient Greece. These ancient civilizations developed a system for guarding the monarchy, as well as highways, which were vital for trading between economic cities. The concept of watchpersons began in ancient Greece and the ancient Egypt civilization (Button and Stiernsted, 2017). The role of security guards transformed into modern-day security service professionals. The continual warfare in Europe in the middle Ages defined the establishment of private security services in Europe; the wealthy families required protection during the war. The feudalism held sway and defined the concept of private security by drawbridges and moats to protect the Castles (Button and Stiernsted, 2017). The development of mutual responsibility between the civilian protection units, and the militaries defined a collective purpose of protection of property and lives. The 18th century formed the basis of modern-day security services. The revolution of crimes brought by the mechanization of economic systems such as the cottage industry led to the setup factories that required protection. The industrial revolution period was an essential duration for the private security sector. The security policy during the industrialization period was premised on the involvement of the citizens in the criminal justice system.

 In 1748, Henry Fielding proposed the creation of professional security guards, which was soon followed by the establishment of the Pinkerton Agency in the United States of America (Button and Stiernsted, 2017). The private security services were deployed to protect factories and coal mining regions. The 19th century was a necessary period for the public policing as inadequate policies forced businesses to turn to the private security sector for policing services. The private security sector grew in the 19th century as it gained popularity among the elite in the society and the citizens. The advancement of infrastructure and political developments formed the basis of the progress of the private security sector. In the mid-19th century to World War I, businesses hired private security entities due to the prevalence of labour disputes, especially in the USA (Button and Stiernsted, 2017). Invention of technology such as electric doorbells revolutionized the concept of private security as experienced in contemporary society

Additionally, after the World Wars and Cold War, private military security was developed to drive the interests of governments around the globe. The technological and business advancements in the private security sector led to the involvement of private security firms in investigative purposes in firms and government departments.

 In England, the pre-modern policing systems were unable to combat the upsurge of crime; therefore, the private security guarding strategies were involved in fighting crime. The modern-day private security sector encompasses technological, legal, and personnel training into the professionalism that takes years to achieve (Van Steden and Sarre, 2007). The private security service has revolutionized to the point at which private security has become part of the policing strategy of various governments around the globe. Many government facilities and business facilities are under the protection of private security officers as well as systems. These facilities include airports, government buildings, and energy facilities, among others. Furthermore, contemporary private security services are offered to the residential premises, leisure venues, shopping malls, entertainment venues and retail facilities, among others.  The management and installation of CCTV systems, as well as patrol of, neighborhoods have been solely the role of private security firms around the world.

Status of private security as an essential service.

          Essential services are defined under various jurisdictions as mandatory or vital services that the citizens require for social and economic growth in a country (Gernigon, Odero & Guido, 2000). Essential services range from health care service, education services, critical public services, and security services, among others.  The place of private security in the context of essential services is theoretically debatable but necessary. The contemporary security policies incorporate interlink between the private security sector and other essential services. Professionalism in the private security sector is a critical aspect in need for its incorporation as a critical service. The services offered by the private security in the U.K. such as protection of government facilities, individual security protection; protection of business premises and public institutions make the sector crucial in the country.

The link between various essential services such as security management systems and emergency responders makes private security a necessary part of the U.K. society. Multiple businesses in the U.K. are fitted with fire detection systems and CCTV systems by private security, which in the event of an incident become the first responders. The coordination between firefighters, the police, and the private security services sector is premised on professionalism; hence, an essential services. McDonald (2016) argues that government policies strategies cannot cover the whole of the U.K.; therefore, private security plays a vital role in offering essential services to the public.

Various companies sort for the services of the private security firms in management such as technological systems and financial systems especially the banking sector. The private security sector plays a fundamental economic role through employment of many people and paying of taxes to the government. The private security providers of guard forces perform police-like duties such as staffing cordons sites in times of emergencies (Kessler and Alexander, 2004). The role of private security is essential in cases of pandemic such as the COVID-19 pandemic in the world. The support and specialists in the health sector require contraction of private security services.  The role of private security in surveillance of risks is an essential role of the private sector to the public. The essentiality of private security service in the U.K. in premised on the corporation with other professions that offer necessary services.

Relationship between private security and other essential services.

          The relationship between private security and other essential services is a critical discourse in the U.K. It is ideal for the U.K. to classify private security professionals as individuals’ offering essential services (Krahmann, 2009). Majority of people depend on private security firms for normal life services. The private security work together with the health sector through management of emergency response systems in residential areas and they also poses fire-detection services or alarm systems, which are connected to the national emergency responses. The private security guards are employed in learning institutions to police the institutions and protect their properties. Additionally, private security services are contracted by the government to protect buildings that offer essential services such as power plants as well as other necessary facilities. The technological and managerial services by private security sector are essential in various government facilities.

The case of declaration of private security service as an essential service provider is evident in U.K. Security officers play a critical role in matters of pandemic nature.  The private security firms work closely with stakeholders that provide essentials. The reach of police is limited; therefore, the private security fills the policing role as well as those of emergency service providers. McDonald (2016) opines that the case of giving the security service providers an essential worker status enable the firms to offer essential services during times of pandemics or any government emergency scenarios. The private security officers if given the essential worker status would not allow critical facilities vulnerable in case of any restriction or lockdown. The management systems, intruder detections, and alarm systems are crucial in the protection of various facilities during any emergency in the U.K.

The case of COVID-19 pandemic in the world spell the better case for designating the private security providers as an essential service provider status. Krahmann (2009) pen that identification of critical worker entails a careful examination of the service they offer Vis a Vie crucial needs of the citizens in times of emergency. The private security providers play an essential role in coordination with other primary service providers since they offer specialized services to the citizens and reach areas where other public policing apparatus cannot cover.  The private security sector employs people who specialize in an array of fields, which are essential to the public.

Privatization paradox.

However, there exists a paradox in the privatization of essential services in any country. Kessler and Alexander (2004) argue that the government must provide essential services to the citizens. The involvement of private security service providers in the provision of essential services raises explicit discourse on risks, costs, and tradeoffs during the transaction.  The definition of critical services that require privatization remains a dilemma. The private security service providers are capitalists in nature and need profits since they are established businesses.

The dimensions of the private security service entail service delivery performance; fiscal impact and balance payment impact Kessler and Alexander (2004) opine that privatization paradox underlies a critical precaution principle in the designation of private security providers as essential workers. The discourse encompasses the role of government and citizens. Ideally, there exists a consensus on the part of the government in the protection of the lives of its citizens. However. It is imperative of the citizens to participate in efforts that promote the public good. The boundary between private and public security raises a dilemma in the U.K.

The private security firms continue to expand as myriads of challenges such as understaffing as well as policies that increase the public policing sector. The assumption in roles of the private security providers and the public policing sectors raises issues in the designation of private security providers as essential service providers. Cost remains a vital impediment of categorizing private security providers as an essential service provider in the U.K. (Button, 2003). The services provided by the private security sector are expensive and require policy strategies to make them affordable to the citizens. The private company firms are profit-making institutions whose functions depend on the surety of payment. The issue of cost undercuts the role of public interest pegged to any service provider designated as an essential provides. The need for private security services is viewed as a necessity in cases where the government is not able to respond or deliver essential service on time, especially in cases of a pandemic or emergency. Furthermore, designation or security services as an essential service provider require government policies that involve intrigues of interest parties. The monetization of the private security services makes it a provider of service whose consumers are those who can afford rather than all citizens.


In summary, despite the cons of the need to recognize private security services as an essential service, there exists a fundamental basis to consider designating it as a critical service. The paper highlights crucial reasons in the roles of private security in the ordinary lives of the citizens. The relationship between the private security sector and other essential service providers is critical in the United Kingdom. The evolution of the private security sector from the protection of life and property physical to the involvement of technology as well as management techniques makes the services by the security firms essential in contemporary society. The dependency of private services by the governments, private businesses, and the citizens makes a crucial case for recognizing the security service sector as a vital service provider.



















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