One of the most important (and often overlooked) aspects of this field is our title. It can (and does) greatly affect the public’s perception of personnel almost as much as uniforms and bearing does.
For the general public, there isn’t much difference between a security guard or an officer– they both (unfortunately) get lumped into the same category and are referred to as just guards. At times, the term guard may even be used in a derogatory or insulting manner towards you.
You should never take offense at being referred to as a guard, nor should you ever correct any person that refers to you as such. It’s bad practice and will only reinforce any negative stereotypes or perceptions the person may already have. Instead, do everything in your power to organically correct that person’s view of the security industry. It’s your responsibility to do so.
Generally speaking, the line between guard and officer is a distinct one.
Traditionally, a guard…
- …is stationary, usually at either a sitting or standing post, with very little freedom of movement
- …is assigned one or two simple tasks, usually of a mundane nature
- …is afforded very little trust or autonomy, regardless of the level of oversight they may be subject to
On the other hand, however, an officer…
- …may be assigned a fixed post, however is expected to maintain coverage of an entire area not possible while stationary
- …may be assigned post orders, but is largely expected to understand and handle a wide variety of situations
- …is afforded much more trust and autonomy, regardless of the level of oversight they are subjected to
Some companies may attempt to distance themselves from the word “guard” by assigning a whole host of titles such as security agent, security host, loss prevention agent, specialist, asset protector, etc. They all boil down to the same points the officer has, as outlined above.
As a security professional, your job should always be to strive to fill out the role of an officer, not a guard (unless your post orders are specifically to do so).
In future posts, I will be outlining important traits every security professional should possess, as well as how to acquire and develop them.