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Code of conduct findings

You may be forgiven for forgetting, but early in 2020 the Security Industry Authority (SIA) went out to consultation – between January and February – on a proposed Code of Conduct; briefly, the behaviour that would be expected of its licence holders and applicants. The SIA sought views of licence holders and others on the draft code, and on the potential impacts of making such a code.

The SIA received 3,853 responses – by government consultation standards, a huge number – to the online consultation, with over 4,200 comments made in response to the free text (that is, open) questions. Nearly all responses (98pc) were made by existing SIA licence holders. The SIA would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in this consultation.

The Authority has published a summary of its analysis of responses.

As the regulator puts it, introducing a Code of Conduct would be a significant step for both the industry and the SIA. The publication of the analysis has taken the SIA longer than it would have liked due to the volume of responses and the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, which has seen the regulator out of its Canary Wharf head offices since March and working remotely, for the foreseeable future.

The SIA says it will now consider in more detail whether a code of conduct is a proportionate regulatory approach, and what impact it might have on the private security industry. Also; how would it work in practice? The SIA promises dialogue and an update.

Commitments

The code proposes to have six ‘Commitments’:

Act with honesty and integrity. Be trustworthy. Protect the people and property you are entrusted to protect. Be professional at work. Act with fairness and impartiality at work. Be accountable for your decisions and actions.

In the consultation, most who replied liked it, and said that they could understand it. Some comments did raise the issue of how could anyone define consistently ‘fit and proper’ – should it include appearance, customer service ethos, being punctual? Being aggressive and violent? Or even poor English language ability, if that implies the licence holder was guilty of fraud to pass their exam to apply for an SIA badge? To repeat, some replies queried how any code could be enforced; would a lack of physical fitness, for example, mean that you weren’t ‘fit and proper’? It begged many questions – would there be a register of violent or other improper behaviour? If someone witnessed a breach of the code – such as violence by door staff against drinkers, or bullying by supervisers of colleagues – would there be a means of ‘whistle-blowing’?

As for whether a code would bring any practical benefits, opinion was split almost equally three ways, between yes, no, and don’t know.

Recap of code

To recap, if you don’t meet the code, you may have your licence suspended and/or revoked. While some behaviours are already crimes – such as taking or asking for a bribe – others are more about ‘integrity’ than outright crimes, such as behaving in an ‘inappropriate, unsafe or sexually predatory way’ towards the vulnerable, such as a doorman towards a young drunk women.

Also potentially difficult to decide on is what is reasonable force under the ‘protect’ commitment. An example of not meeting the commitment in the SIA’s draft is a security guard rugby tackling a shoplifter to the ground as they try to leave a supermarket, and then restraining them face down on the ground while waiting for the police to arrive (if, we might add, police ever do).

As for the ‘professional’ commitment, that would take much defining; how professional is it to have a drink before a shift, or to discriminate, on any grounds?

Besides the front line actions of operatives, the code proposes also to address company directors, such as the ‘phoenixing’ or closing an insolvent company, and then carrying on much the same business, with the same offices and same employees but using a new (but similar to the old) company name; or allowing a guarding or door security business to be used as a front for an organised crime group.


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