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Ethics and Morals in Security

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Ethics and morals should be a driving force especially when placed in charge of protecting people, property, reputations or as security training provider.

Let’s start by defining the term “Ethics

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Ethics is defined as:

the principles of conduct governing an individual or a profession

Other sources include in their definition:

the concepts of moral right and wrong and moral good and bad

Also according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary Moral is defined as:

of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior

Basically, Ethics and Morals can be summed up as doing what is right rather than doing what is expedient, profitable, or gets you want you want regardless of the manner you in which you get it.

Ethics is so important that Public and Private organizations have ethic policies in place to guide their employees on what is and what is not acceptable.

An article on Forbes.com dated Sept 11, 2017 titled “Top CEO’s Place Hight Value On Corporate Ethics and Social Responsibility to Drive Business”  highlights the importance of Ethics and what it means to them.

Here are two direct quotes:

 “Ethics is a mindset, not an option.”

Dan Amos, Chairman and CEO, Aflac,

“Ethics is a reflection of our commitment to doing business the right way. We emphasize trust and transparency.”

Rodney Martin, CEO, Voya Financial,

Unfortunately, in the security industry we see the lack of Ethics and Morals almost daily.  Here are just a few examples I have personally witnessed or encountered in my 17 years of experience:

1.     Over charging clients for services or quality not provided.

If a contract requires 10 security agents but the security organization only provides 8, many organizations will still charge for 10 if the client does not check or audit the security staffing in real time.

Sub-contracting is another area that clients are often taken advantage of.  As an example, the client pays the prime security contract holder however, that contractor needs to outsource the security to another vendor. As soon as the contract is subbed out that bill rate is drastically reduced. This allows the contract holder to retain a large percentage of the bill rate at the cost of the quality of security to be provided.

To further explain, let’s assume the Security Contract holder charges the client an hourly bill rate of $100.  They then sub-contract the work to Security Vendor A; however, they only provide an hourly bill rate of $50 to Vendor A.  The prime keeps $50 an hour for simply finding another service provider. Vendor A will need to hire a security agent based on the provided hourly bill rate of $50.  This could result in a $20-$35-hour guard.   The client has an expectation of a level of security to be provided based on an hourly bill rate of $100 however, is getting as little as a quarter of what they have paid for.

Clients do understand that security is a business and profits must be made. However, most if not all clients have no knowledge of the extent in which the quality of security is reduced. This gets exponentially worse when the main contract is subbed out multiple times from the prime contract holder to Vendor A then Vendor A subs it to Vendor B and so on.  Each vendor takes a percentage, and the client ends up with a $12 an hour security guard.

2.     Not paying those that have done the job in a timely manner.

Often on social media posts or on contracts it is indicated that pay will be delivered upon the end of the contract, at times that could be up to 90+ days.  This is not only immoral and unethical it is often illegal in most states.

It’s understandable that individuals need to work and may accept those terms however that does not make it right.  The contract holder should either have the funds available to cover the required payroll OR bill their client prior to work being performed.

Most states have specific pay frequency requirements that must be followed. A list of those requirements can be found at State Specific Pay Frequency

3.     Hiring staff as 1099 sub-contractor and not as W2 employees.

This is a common issue which provides the security company the ability to defer tax liabilities off onto the security agent.

This not only violates IRS tax code, but it also violates most state laws pertaining to licensing requirements.

If a security contract company sub-contracts out security services that sub-contractor would be required to hold all the proper state licenses to do business and also provide security service. They would also need to have the proper liability insurance to provide security services.

More IRS information can be found at IRS Self Employment/Independent Contractor or Employee

Ethics and Morals

4.     Using LEOSA HR218 as authority to provide armed security services.

Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) HR218 allows qualified Law Enforcement officers the ability to carry a concealed weapon in any jurisdiction in the United States.  Often this is improperly used as a pre-qualifier for a security agent to be hired.

HR 218 is intended for the qualified members personal protection and does not provide them the authority to carry a firearm while providing security for others. Most states require a separate Armed Guard Card to provide armed security services.

HR 218 states:

§926C. Carrying of concealed firearms by qualified retired law enforcement officers

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of the law of any State or any political subdivision thereof, an individual who is a qualified retired law enforcement officer and who is carrying the identification required by sub- section (d) may carry a concealed firearm that has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, subject to subsection (b)

Most States have laws requiring armed security license which HR 218 does not supersede.

5.     Organizations and individual operating without proper licensing and or insurance.

Frequently clients travel within the United States and require that security be maintained at all times.  If a security agent is a W2’d employee of the clients or the organization the client works for then specific licensing may not be required.

However, in most cases security companies provide contracted security for clients and or organization.  That requires the security service provider and security agents to have the proper state licensing and insurance coverages in all states that security services are provided in.

Instead of finding local licensed security vendors, security companies simply send their security agents across state lines without the proper licensing which is illegal and puts everyone involved at risk of legal action.

Often the client and or prime contract holders do not verify that their sub-contractor is fully licensed or if the security agents have the proper licensing to perform security services.

6.     Job posting on social media platforms to fill immediate security openings.

The first question that should be asked when a post of this nature is advertised should be “how are security background checks being done if you are filling the position last minute and hiring from social media?

Another question that should be asked is “How are a security agent’s qualifications being validated with such short notice”?

And finally, how would the client feel if they were to find out their security is being filled by a random person found on social media?

7.     Training schools that are not qualified to instruct on what they are advertising and teaching.

Many training providers offer a buffet of courses which could include Executive Protection, Medical, Technical Surveillance Countermeasure (TSCM), Designated Defensive Marksman, High Threat Protective Security Detail (PSD), and a variety of other “cool” or attention-grabbing courses.

Many of these providers offer courses they are not qualified to teach. As an example, if you have gone to a TSCM course that does not qualify you to teach TSCM, same goes for PSD, DDM and medical courses as well.

Many also offer these courses to raise the training hours they provide in order to qualify to receive GI Bill payments and thus they specifically target veterans.

8.    Ethics and morals involved in issuing training certificates, while not always meeting the requirements

If there is overlap in training content training providers will simply issue certificates to those attending indicating they have met the training requirements for multiple courses.

As an example, which will vary from state to state: An individual attends a carbine course and also needs to complete a required conceal carry course.  Although during the carbine course they train on transitioning to a pistol, that portion of carbine training cannot be used to substitute or qualify as meeting the CCW training requirement.

As yet another example, if medical courses are being provided such as TCCC, Stop the Bleed, and CPR/AED although these courses may have overlap of information each course has an independent training time and skills testing requirements. You cannot combine courses and each one needs to be delivered independently.

9.     Hiring individuals without doing proper background checks.

As previously touched on regarding hiring from social media, very few security providers do background checks.

This has facilitated individuals with felony criminal records to provide security services.

Even more concerning is that known felons have been hired regardless of their criminal convictions.

10.  Ethics and Morals of security professionals as individuals, and a whole

Instead of being steadfast they compromise their own ethics and morals simply to get along with those who lack or violate what should be industry values and norms.

By ignoring those who harm this industry we provide them license to continue and misrepresent the profession, steal from those being protected and individuals wanting to join the industry.

Unfortunately, for the reasons stated, I have to tell my clients

Those you hire to protect you are often the first ones to steal from you

Final thoughts on ethics and morals in security

For me, transparency, ethics, and morals are guiding principles to build and maintain trust with my clients and those I work with.

Security is a selfless industry by nature.  We are asked and trusted to potentially risk our lives in the protection of others. We are also exposed to sensitive information which we are trusted to protect. Not only do we jeopardized the lives and information of our clients when we operate without ethics, we also put everyone involved in legal jeopardy.

To sum it up Ethics and Morals are directly tied to trustworthiness and integrity of an individual and or organization.  All of which are critical when trusted to provide security services.

As security professionals we need to do better.

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