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Military transitioning into private security: What's your take?

Monday, June 24, 2013

I had an interesting discussion last week with Jeffrey Hawkins. Strategic initiatives manager for American Military University, Hawkins will moderate a panel at the fall ASIS conference on “Transitioning from the Military or Law Enforcement into the Private Security Sector.”

Many think any person with a military background makes him or her a perfect fit for private security. The ASIS Foundation, in fact, has scholarships for active-duty personnel who want to gain certifications. Guard companies have been especially open to hiring ex-military.

But Hawkins, whose university’s 100,000 students worldwide are 58 percent active-military, had some great points, which can be seen here. A veteran who worked protection detail? That’s great. A career soldier who worked in the mess hall? Um, not so much.

Security Director News has written about this previously.

A number of our “20 under 40” winners last year have military backgrounds and they are stellar professionals. I’m sure a fair amount of the outstanding nominees we get for this year’s awards will have military backgrounds as well.

What is your experience? Were you military? Did you hire someone from a military background? I’d like to know for a future article for Security Director News. Any input is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.


'20 under 40' nomination time!

Friday, June 21, 2013

I had a great time at the TechSec Solutions conference this past February in Fort Lauderdale. It seems like it was just yesterday, but we here at Security Director News are now gearing up for the 2014 event, to be held in January in Delray Beach, Fla.

Last year was my first TechSec experience, my first time helping to choose the “20 under 40” award winners, and my first time meeting a dozen of them in person after interviewing each of the 20 via phone. I was so impressed by their professionalism and dedication to the physical security field. You should be, too.

Now it’s time for new nominations and new winners.

I’ve reached out to last year’s class of winners, asking them to pay it forward to nominate any of their young(er) colleagues, and they’ve responded enthusiastically. I can’t wait to see who they think is worthy of this award and why.

I’d like to hear from you, too. These young men and women truly have voices that need to be heard. From their emerging technology know-how to their thoughts on strategies to physically secure their businesses, they represent the future of the industry. Nominate them here.

Thank you!


Bring-your-own-bags: A boon for shoplifters?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Are bans on single-use bags aiding shoplifters?

It would seem so, according to a provocative article from the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman.

For environmental reasons, Austin banned single-use bags as of March 1 of this year. Customers are now required to bring their own bags to stores. Retailers and police said in the article that, because of the ban, it is now more difficult to tell the difference between legitimate customers and shoplifters.

“We’re getting a new type of offender that is taking advantage of the system,” Austin Police Officer David Silva, who worked off-duty in March at a local Walmart, said in the article.

Before the ban, someone leaving the store with unbagged items would be suspect, but it happens more frequently now as some customers forget to bring their own bags.

The article said that the Texas Retailers Association, which sued the city of Austin over the bag ban in February, has no hard data about increased thefts in the wake of the measure. In other cities, such as Brownsville, Texas, and Seattle, however, increased theft has been attributed to similar bans.

What’s your experience? Does this come down to a contest between being green and effective LP? I’m interested. Let me know. I'd like to look into this further.



Pittsburgh Pirates cave; NFL boosts its measures

Friday, June 14, 2013

PNC Park in Pittsburgh, home of Major League Baseball’s Pirates, decided to use metal-detecting wands on all entering fans following a review of stadium security procedures after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Officials announced the security change this past Monday, but the next night, at a game against the San Francisco Giants, they gave up. As gate lines grew longer and longer and the game was under way, waiting fans became more and more disgruntled. Security personnel were told to put their wands away.

Pirates President Frank Coonelly later apologized to fans, saying “We stopped the wanding procedure at the start of the game and were able to clear the lines at the gates by the end of the first inning,” according to a report in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.

MLB doesn’t require metal detectors at its venues, but it soon plans to review its security practices, the report said.

Meanwhile, the National Football League announced this week new security measures at its stadiums for the upcoming 2013 season. Fans will be required to carry in their belongings only in small purses, gallon-sized freezer bags or other clear bags no bigger than 12 inches. Coolers, backpacks, camera bags, briefcases, computer bags and purses larger than clutch-size are among the newly banned items. Medically necessary items will be allowed, as will cameras, binoculars and smart phones.

The NFL stadium-security upgrades were recently approved by team owners. Similar measures have worked well at colleges, including Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State, which do not permit any bags in their stadiums, officials said, according to a report from

C’mon, sports fans. Just get to the game early and deal—for security’s sake. It’s the way of the world. Been to an airport recently? I truly don’t want to hear about a bombing or shooting at a professional sports event. Pirates, shame on you.

What do you think of these disparate approaches?

More on (beleagured) Y-12 complex

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Cameras and sensors have been repaired or replaced and more security patrolmen are on the job, along with additional staffing at the central alarm station at the Y-12 National Security Complex since last July’s security breach.

Efforts also are being made, here, to reduce the false and nuisance alarm rate at the facility, which houses bomb-grade uranium, according to a report from Oak Ridge

The Y-12 security update came to light because of another, albeit less serious, breach this month, on June 6. Early that morning, a 62-year-old woman, looking for an apartment, mistakenly followed a line of traffic to the complex and was waved through the main entrance by security officers. She drove around the complex a bit before being stopped when she tried to exit. Federal officials said Y-12 security failed to follow proper procedure. Three security police officers and one supervisor have been suspended as a result.

The Y-12 security update, requested and obtained by Oak Ridge Today in the wake of that incident, said the complex has “carefully examined the circumstances" that led to last year’s July 28 break-in by three elderly protesters, including a nun. The trio cut through perimeter fences and splashed blood and paint and otherwise vandalized the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

The three anti-nuclear protesters were found guilty on two federal charges last month and will remain in jail until their sentencing in September

“Y-12 … is applying the lessons learned to our security posture and operations,” the security update said, according to the news report. “These actions included adding key leadership personnel, restoring to service critical security elements and refining alarm system components to enhance reliability.”

The security update said all the Perimeter Intrusion Detection and Assessment System, or PIDAS, cameras at Y-12 were replaced, and extra concertina wire was  installed to fully enclose all critical areas. Also, retired Brig. Gen. Rod Johnson was brought in from B&W Pantex to assume responsibility for Y-12’s Safeguards, Security and Emergency Services, the report said.


Santa Monica shooting details emerge

Monday, June 10, 2013

John Zawahri, the 23-year-old man accused of killing five people and wounding others in Santa Monica June 7 before being shot and killed by police, had a history of mental illness when he was a juvenile and grew up in an abusive home, news reports say.

The investigation continues, but it appears so far that Zawahri first got into a dispute at his father’s home, which was burning. The bodies of his father and brother were later found in the house.

Zawahri, dressed in black with an ammunition belt around his waist and carrying an AR-15 assault rifle and a duffel bag with as much as 1,800 rounds of ammunition, then allegedly carjacked a car and its female driver and had her drive him to Santa Monica. College. He fired indiscriminately into traffic on the way, news reports said. Once at the college, he shot five people; all died of their injuries.

Police say they don’t know why Zawahri wanted to go to the campus, but emphasized that this was “not a school shooting.” Nor, they said, do they know of Zawahri having any “extremist” philosophies.

The shootings forced President Obama, who was appearing at a Democratic fund-raiser about three miles away, to change his travel plans. He had been scheduled to take a helicopter to the Los Angeles airport, but instead drove by car with his security detail.

Incoming IAHSS president sets education as priority, starting with her own security staff

Friday, June 7, 2013
By Leischen Stelter

Education in the physical security sector remains remarkably low. According to a 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, only 12 percent of security professionals have bachelor’s degrees, 42 percent have some college, and the remaining 46 percent have a high school diploma or less. However, many leading security professionals throughout the industry are working to change those statistics by putting education at the forefront of their security programs.

Marilyn Hollier, CPP, CHPA, is the director of HHC Security Services at the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers. In her leadership role, she has made it one of her career objectives to ensure her security staff has the opportunity to achieve a higher level of education.

In January of 2014, Hollier will have a wider opportunity to share her outlook on education with other security leaders when she takes the helm as president of the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS). As president she will continue building the membership of hospitals around the country and the world promoting training and certification programs. IAHSS has also recently developed an educational partnership with American Military University to promote the value of education within the security industry. This partnership will jointly encourage those in the hospital security profession to pursue higher levels of education and help “professionalize” the security industry.

“I want a well-educated staff to help us be successful,” said Hollier. “As a leader, I tell all my employees that they are resources—their success is mine and my success is theirs.” She encourages all her employees to get their bachelor’s, master’s or other certifications. Employees are offered incentives to further their education, from bonuses after they complete programs to flexible work hours to account for school schedules.

The proof of her dedication to education is in the numbers. Out of her 166 staff members:

  • 12 have high school diplomas
  • 20 have Associate’s degrees
  • 123 have Bachelor’s degrees
  • 11 have Master’s degrees


Hollier makes a point to talk about education even during the interview process. “Before they sign on the dotted line, we make a verbal contract where they agree that they will train beyond their job,” she said. “They understand they are resources to this department and that I want them to be successful and continue their education if they can. It’s a win for us and a win for them.”

She attributes her focus on education partially to her own career experiences, specifically addressing some of the obstacles she faced during her early career. After getting her master’s degree in Urban Studies/Human Resources in 1987, Hollier said she had difficulty getting recognition for her academic achievements. “I struggled to get law enforcement and/or security leadership positions because I was often more educated than the people interviewing me,” she said. “I would think to myself: ‘I’m a resource to help you be successful,’ but they often saw me as a threat. That stayed with me and I learned from that,” she said.

Hollier also stresses the importance of professional certifications. Many on her leadership team have obtained theirs. She has eight Certified Healthcare Protection Administrators (CHPA) through IAHSS, four Certified Protection Professionals (CPP) and one Physical Security Professional (PSP) through ASIS International.

She has found that education helps build self-esteem and confidence among her employees. “It is common sense to me,” she said. “You get good at your job when you have a combination of education and experience. Education teaches you tools that you can try out in your job.”

Leischen Stelteris the coordinator of Social Media Integration at American Military University, writing about issues and trends in the physical security and public safety sectors. Stelter is the former managing editor of Security Director News. In addition to contributing to AMU Security Info, she also manages the blog, In Public Safety, which focuses on issues and trends in law enforcement, fire services, emergency management and national intelligence.

Security at the U.S. Open

Friday, June 7, 2013

Maybe Tiger Woods will make up for his shabby performance last month at the Memorial Tournament at next week's U.S. Open, or maybe he won't. Who knows? What we do know is that strict security measures will be in place for the tournament at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

"There will be metal-detection screening, similar to what you experience at airport security," Deputy Chief John Viola of the Haverford Township Police Department, who is overseeing the law-enforcement operations, told ESPN. "This screening process is designed to prevent spectators from bringing prohibited items onto the championship grounds. Our goal is to assure that everyone has a safe and an enjoyable experience at the U.S. Open."

Spectators will be prohibited from bringing cell phones, PDAs and tablets, cameras, bags larger than 8 inches square, chairs, step-stools and stepladders on to the course.

"We encourage all spectators to review the list of prohibited items and secure those items in a safe place or leave them at home," Viola told ESPN.

Update: Small knives on planes? Scrap that

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

TSA Administrator John Pistole has thrown in the towel on his proposal to allow airline passengers to carry on knives with blades that are 2.36 inches or less.

Pistole’s plan, announced in March, was for those small knives to be allowed as of April 25. His proposed rule change would also  have allowed passengers to carry on hockey sticks, golf clubs and billiard cues, which had since been disallowed. After he was confronted with outcries from the Flight Attendants Union Coalition, representing 90,000 members, and a public petition with 400,000 signatures and other protests, he delayed the rule change, then said he was reconsidering.

Well, he has.

"After extensive engagement with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates and other important stakeholders, TSA will continue to enforce the current prohibited items list," Pistole said in a news report from Reuters.

Pistole had previously defended the rule changes, saying the TSA needed to prioritize threats, and that its time was best spent looking for more lethal weapons such as explosive devices.

The flight attendants union praised Pistole for hearing their concerns and reversing his position.

What do you think?


Organized retail crime: A global epidemic

Tuesday, June 4, 2013
By Christopher McGourty

The National Anti-Organized Retail Crime Association was created in 2011 to assist loss prevention professionals and law enforcement officials by bringing the private sector and public sector together against the growing tide of organized retail crime.

We at NAORCA are dedicated and passionate about this topic. ORC has been linked to terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and the funding of other criminal gang activity in the United States and around the world. Everyday another international retail theft ring is uncovered.

Retail is global and so is organized retail crime. This is truly a global epidemic.

Our industry must continue to work together and build partnerships throughout the world. We can do this through education, training and awareness. Being on the front line in this fight I have seen all types of ORC, such as credit card fraud, check fraud, refund fraud, organized shoplifting, fake and altered receipts and price tags, E-fencing, burglary, robbery, smash-and-grab and counterfeit money and merchandise.

Retailers must continue to work together and share information about these criminal groups. As our industry continues to evolve, along with new technologies, we must try to be one step ahead of the criminal activity before it hits the bottom line.

Let’s stop being victims of this crime and stand up, work together, share information and make an impact.

Top executives must look at this as an industry problem and work with other retailers by sharing information and let go of the mindset that sending these criminals to another retail chain will solve the problem. Talk to the people who are out there in the field investigating these crimes, and look at the complexities and sophistication that these criminals have undertaken to commit these crimes.

Retailers can be proactive by establishing ORC units dedicated to this fight. They must continue to fund training and education in credit card, check, refund and gift-card fraud. They also must fund training in counterfeiting and e-crimes. 

Retailers could also provide funding to local, state and federal agencies that are on the front line in tackling these crimes. Funding could help with equipment, and help these agencies off set payroll dollars needed to investigate and prosecute these crimes.

NAORCA is dedicated to ORC education, training, and awareness not only to loss prevention and law enforcement but to many other industry sectors these types of crimes impact.

Christopher McGourty has more than 20 years of experience in loss prevention, including working for Filene’s Basement, TJX and Lowe’s Home Improvement and is a founder/board member of the National Anti-ORC Association Inc.,