Security Theater: A Dangerous Placation

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An Opinion Piece by Michael Mancino
http://www.tsr-associates.com

Security is both a feeling and a reality. The propensity for security theater comes from the interplay between the public and its leaders.

When people are scared, they need something done that will make them feel safe, even if it doesn’t truly make them safer. Politicians naturally want to do something in response to crisis, even if that something doesn’t make any sense.

-Bruce Shneier

In light of two recent attacks in Florida in the last two weeks I feel it’s important to address a topic that is widely discussed in the security world that most people outside of it are woefully ignorant of.

Security Theater.

We’ve all seen security theater at work. Look no further than our own illustrious TSA. In fact, the quote at the beginning of this opinion piece was spoken in the context of that organization. When we go to a club, a sporting event, even a restaurant, we are often witnessing security theater. Too often our venues attempt to give the impression of safety and security by using flashy uniforms, big men in tight shirts, fancy titles and expensive machinery that most of the staff have no idea how to operate.

Unfortunately, our society is beginning to learn the hard way that such measures are largely ineffective against a determined attacker.

Part of the problem in the security industry stems from an overall lack of training and quality of the guards that are fielded. I challenge anyone to find more than a small handful of individuals working at these events or venues that are career security professionals. More often than not the front line people are chosen because of their looks or their associations with whoever happens to be hiring.

Those of us who make security and safety our lifestyle experience no end of frustration.

We understand that effective protection requires brains, training and forethought. Security theater lacks much of this. Going back to the two incidents in the last two weeks illustrates this well.

Christina Grimmie, the Voice singer who was gunned downed while signing autographs, was not a megastar. I’m not going to sit behind this keyboard and speculate to motives her agent, or manager, or whoever, had in not providing adequate personal protection. What I will do is stress that anyone in the public eye is prone to targeting.

Being that she was at a performance venue there was almost certainly some form of ‘security’ present however it was most likely for show. The assailant was able to walk up to Grimmie and fire on her from a very close distance. Properly trained security personnel could, and should, have identified this individual as a threat or at a minimum discovered the firearm on his person before he was able to enter the venue.

A trained executive protection professional may have identified pre-incident indicators leading up to the attack and avoided the incident altogether.

As far as the Orlando nightclub shooting goes, the only mention of security is two bouncers and an off duty police officer. One of the bouncers, former Marine Imran Yousef, is credited with saving multiple lives. His training and experience in the US Military undoubtedly aided in his reactions and decision making.

Generally, bouncers are not hired for their intensive training in the security industry, and that needs to change. Most clubs will hire bouncers based off of their appearance, whether or not they can handle themselves in a fight or because they know someone. Off duty police officers are often used in clubs, however they are not always the best choice. Police officers are extremely well trained when it comes to reacting to threats, engaging with disruptive persons, etc and are undoubtedly an excellent deterrent and an excellent resource if it hits the fan, however a properly trained security professional arguably receives more training in assessing threats, threat mitigation, and pre-incident indicators than does your average patrol officer.

Again, I have no desire to Monday-morning-quarterback these situations but I take this opportunity to stress that our society needs a change of perception. Dangerous people exist. Whether a lone crazed gunman obsessed with a celebrity, or a terrorist out for blood, violence can and will happen.

As a society we must understand that true safety requires professionals that are able to identify, mitigate, avoid and respond to threats properly. Security theater as it exists now is dangerous and it will certainly be paid for in blood.

I, and all of my associates, am more than happy to assist an organization in discussing their needs. More importantly, we are eager to illuminate those areas that are so often missed when mitigating a threat.