The current public perception of security officers seen as playing an “essential role” in the United Kingdom, both before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, is ranked only “slightly ahead of traffic wardens”, according to a survey.
Perceptions of the Security Officer was carried out by YouGov on behalf of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the Security Institute (SyI) and the Security Commonwealth (SyCom), as part of the ‘Hidden Workforce’ campaign. The YouGov survey was commissioned in September, with over 2,000 respondents aged between 18 and 55 from the ABC1 and C2DE backgrounds.
The survey’s objective was to understand the current perception of security officers among the British public and to understand the extent of the key issues they face, namely potential lack of respect, recognition and underestimation of their role.
Of those polled, 31 per cent believe that security officers are fundamental to keeping the UK safe and secure, with 41 per cent indicating respect and a feeling of safety due to the work that security officers carry out. The role of the security officer was ranked 9th out of 10 essential services, behind postal workers and pharmacists, and just ahead of traffic wardens, who were ranked 10th. When asked about these roles during Covid-19, security officers were not mentioned at all as an essential service.
When asked about which characteristics describe the personality of a security officer, the highest scores were ‘honest’, ‘alert’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘brave’ and confident, but some respondents looked at officers as being ‘authoritative’, ‘rigid’, ‘burly’, ‘threatening’ and ‘unintelligent’.
Respondents also felt that the crimes that security officers help to prevent are shoplifting, antisocial behaviour and petty crime and that officers should only work closely with the police if asked.
Mike Reddington, chief executive of BSIA, said: “The results of the YouGov survey, Perceptions of the Security Officer, highlight that, whilst a good level of the general public feel safe and reassured in the presence of a security officer, they do not see their services as essential and even less so during the recent pandemic. Although security officers were recognised by the UK Government as key workers during this time, it seems that the perception of the role they play in our daily lives is still at a low level and this needs to be addressed urgently.”
Rick Mounfield, chief executive of the Security Institute, said: “The public seem unaware of the critical role security officers play in supporting the police in deterring crime and terrorism, let alone their intervention when theft, robbery and attacks occur. The survey demonstrates that the average citizen in the UK pays little to no attention to what a security officer is doing.
“However, this is not all bad, because a good security posture should be low key until a crisis hits. The important aspect is that the public should at least, recognise what security officers provide, ensuring their safety. These are the people they will look to in a crisis.”
The YouGov survey is part of the campaign that the BSIA is running with the Security Institute and the Security Commonwealth, ‘the Hidden Workforce – resetting the perceptions of the security officer’, which aims to change this perception of security officers in the long term and to reset the perception of the security officer as "a respected, valued, professional service provider, contributing to and creating a safe and secure environment that is critical to protecting people, places, and property – a key worker that is acknowledged and embedded in our daily lives".
To reflect a modern inclusive and diverse security workforce, the BSIA has also introduced new terminology across its communications platforms. The association will be discontinuing the use of the terms ‘security guarding’, ‘manpower’, ‘manned guarding’, ‘security guard(s)’ and ‘security guarding section’, replacing them with ‘security officer services’ and ‘security officer’.