DAVIS MULENGA, Lusaka
MORE often than not, security guards are the first people to be on the crime scene.
Their importance is illustrated by the fact that a security guard gave a tip to police to stop the massacre of thousands of Americans in Las Vegas recently when a lone gunman Stephen Paddock went on rampage shooting and as a result killing 58 people before taking his own life.
A security guard, Jesus Campos led police to the killer’s hotel room to save lives of about 25, 000 concert-goers who were targeted for elimination by Paddock.
Campos, who took in a bullet from the gunman, led police to the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay where Paddock was firing at concert-goers at an open-air event.
The guard has been eulogised for his bravery and saving thousands of lives of concert-goers.
In Zambia, security guards have helped provide important leads to police to either thwart crime or arrest outlaws. They also provide security services at business premises and household level.
Despite playing a vital role in providing security to individuals and eminent institutions in both the private and public sectors, the security guard sector is plagued by lack of inadequate training.
Security guards are usually at the frontline of loss prevention, risk management, safety and security of businesses and individuals, but they lack basic understanding of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Having security guards who are better educated, trained and qualified in many aspect of preventing and investigating crime is not going to happen overnight. But the push by companies that want professional security services and the demand by the general public, create optimism to radically change the frontline for combating crime.
Working together with the Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation (ZAFFICO), the University of Africa (UoA) has designed a curriculum to elevate not only the public perceptions but also skills and qualifications of security guards.
“This is a result of efforts by the industry, companies – both private and public, such as ZAFFICO that want professional security services,” said Ramap Bedding, UoA head of School of Law.
According to Bedding, the newly, developed curriculum would help the industry develop fundamental skills required for preventing and investigating various types of crime, including white-collar crimes and fraud.
The two-week training programme also covered constitutional concepts, criminal justice system and human rights. Other aspects included national security and development with emphasis on responsive criminal justice system.
“By and large, security guards are unprepared to handle problematic situations when carrying out their jobs. This strongly endorses the need for strengthening minimum standards they need in preventing and investigating various types of crime,” says Bedding.
The significance of the training is underscored by the growth of the industry. Globally, the growth has been influenced by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In some countries’ the private security industry has even outgrown public policing.
Locally, the expanding economy has helped growth of the industry. It is for this reason that security guards are a common sight in communities and business premises.
Another notable feature is that the number of armed guards has increased in the recent times compared to previous years.
However, the growth has not been matched by effective regulation and standards. This has resulted into security guard jobs being relatively low-paying.
Further, the public hold security guards in low esteem because of their limited powers and perceived lack of education.
This gives rise to a significant need to raise the professional qualifications of security guards. The call to address the situation has been towards public-private partnership to build capacity of this industry that plays an important role in fighting crime.
“Many other roles players in law enforcement and private security are also convinced the initiative is vital because of the increase and complexity of crime,” Bedding said.
The resource team for the training included senior personnel with vast experience in law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.
UoA deputy vice Chancellor Christine Mushibwe said the training represented a significant milestone in improving national security.
“Both corporate security and contract security firms across the full spectrum of security services recognise the importance of this training, and the officers from ZAFFICO bear testimony to this,” Dr Mushibwe said.