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03-13-2010, 01:26 PM   #1
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Security and Police

I am an avid photographer who happens to work as a security guard for a living. Photography is a basicly a big bag of hurt for us. I work as a security guard in an office complex of a major oil company. Sure, the building has interesting architecture, so I can se why people would want to photograph it. At the same time though, if someone got their hands on the documents in this building, they could sell them for many thousands of dollars. We therefore tend to aproach photographers with a sense of scepticism. The matter of the fact is that extensive use of photographic equipment is used when trying to gain access to buildings. The pictures are used to plan ways of getting in, documenting CCTV locations, card readers, security rutines, etc.

Despite all this though I often shake my head at the many stories I hear concerning security guards and police. Many security guards simply have no idea what they are doing and think that all photographers are their enemy. The way we do it where I work is to first study their movements using CCTV. Are they systematicly taking pictures of things such as CCTV locations or are the pictures more genereal. By studying the situation, a security guard will be able to avoid 90% of all false acusations, and even if you do approach someone, they seem to forget that people are innocent until proven guilty and should therefore be treated as such. They don't seem to realise that today, exterior picture of things such as our office complex can quite easily be aquired through sources like google earth and search engines on the internet. Why shouldn't they be allowed to take pictures of the building, as long as they don't start trespassing onto private company property.

At the same time though, I don't feel us security guards can take all the blame. In some of the videos that I've seen of police confering with photographers, the poilce have actually acted quite respectively, simply asking them what they intend to use the images for. The photographer often gets quite offensive, despite the well mannared police. I think both security and photographers need to take a moment to think about how they behave. Even though you're being accused of something you havn't done, it doesn't give you the right to be downright offensive to us.

Sorry to rant, but seeing as I'm both a hobby photographer and a full time security guard, I kinda felt I was able to se this from both sides of the story whereas most people on here will have a very one sided view on it. I am of course open to the fact that I may well be mistaken in my presumptions, so I'd love to hear other opinions on this .

03-13-2010, 02:23 PM   #2
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Good post, it's nice to read your perspective on it.
Most of the stories we hear come out of Britain, do you have any insight into how things
are in your country by comparison.
03-13-2010, 03:03 PM   #3
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I can't say I've heard of a single case with Norwegian police, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I havn't heard of such stories with Norwegian security guards either. At the same time though, Norway hasn't been subject to any terrorist attacks, so that might have some impact on it. The company I work for though has very clear guidelines for most situations which might well be the reason why we don't have so many cases. At the same time though, all the major Norwegian security firms, just like in all other countries, have had cases of over eager workers who have gone to far, thinking their status as a security guard gives them the same rights as a police officer, which clearly it doesn't. It's a great job, I really enjoy it, but I think that a lot of people come into it thinking it's something else. Sadly, they are not weeded out of the company as quickly as they should be.
03-13-2010, 03:27 PM   #4
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In Britain, most of the incidents involving the police are attributed to CPSO's (Community Police Support Officers). These are non warranted police officers which means their powers are limited. It's reasonable to assume that many of the incidences have been cases of either inexperience or the CPSO's overstepping the mark and throwing their (diminished) weight around or possibly even a little of both.
With regards to incidents involving security guards (and this applies in Britain and the US), the position is not held in high esteem by the public. The guards are considered 'wannabe's' who couldn't qualify to be real policemen. They are also poorly paid which does make the job a thankless task.

03-13-2010, 03:45 PM   #5
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Most of the problems seem to happen when the police (or security guards) are breaking the law by accosting a photographer who is within his rights to do what he is doing.
03-13-2010, 03:50 PM   #6
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Thanks for the insights alehel but most security guards simply don't seem to be as bright as you are. The fact that you are a photographer gives you an understanding that most security guards do not share.

Most of the time when they approach a photographer about taking photos, that photographer is on public property and the guards are very simply out of their jurisdiction. For a guard to come off of company property and start asking me why I am taking photos is just plain BS. The second I step onto company property he is paid to protect, fine, have at me but when I'm on a public street or sidewalk... Back Off! They not only have no valid reason to question me, they also have no authority to question me. Most photographers know that, and I suspect you know that too... Heck, I'd be willing to bet that down deep, most security guards know it as well, but they have been so puffed up about the risk that someone might want to blow up their doughnut factory that their logic goes out the window.

As for escalating to the real police, with the exception of some military and nuclear installations and sites designated as "critical to national security" just about anything viewable from a public space can be photographed (in the U.S. anyway... not sure about your country). This is a long standing legal standard in the U.S. and in spite of the security theatrics common since 9/11 is still the law of the land. This is why many photographers get more than a little huffy when a police officer approaches us to ask why we are taking photos of... whatever. Would they realistically ask, say a jogger, why he kept running by the building? Would they ask a person sitting on a park bench writing in a notebook? Doubtful... however its just as likely that the jogger is timing security patrols or that the writer is recording license plates of cars entering the facility as it is that a photographer is to be collecting positions of security measures.

If they'd think about it, they'd realize that if a person wanted photos of their building because they were casing the joint, they would do it from concealment or from a distance... heck they'd fly over in a Cessna. Why? Because shooting in plain sight and then blowing up the place would lead to a sensible review of the security tapes (no problems there, you are perfectly free to film anyone who is in the area of your facility) and they will be more likely to be identified. Even most of the slugs who want to do something bad know better than to get themselves captured on film.

Turning to the building layouts... If they need plans of the building, they can go to the local building permits office and get them for the cost of the copy paper (most building plans are public information). As you mentioned, they can also go to maps.google and get fairly detailed satellite photos of the entire property. Sorry but that genie is out of the bottle.

Finally, let me provide a little insight as to why these are my positions and opinions on this issue. I'm a retired Air Force Senior NCO and spent considerable time in security as a secondary skill. I've also been involved in risk management and mitigation most of my adult life. One thing I can say is that you can NEVER completely eliminate risk. All you can do is manage the risks you have control over and plan how to respond to the ones you cannot control. A wise man once said "Don't sweat the small stuff." and that is nowhere so true as in security. naturally, you need to know the "small stuff" exists, but you shouldnt worry about it to the exclusion of worrying about the big stuff. You need to concentrate on lessening the risks that are most likely to occur and which have the largest effect. A true risk management professional knows this!

Unfortunately, most security programs are run by politicians (both government and company) who are more concerned about security theater and making themselves look good so they get their next promotion rather than by people who can efficiently protect the assets under their care.

Mike

Last edited by MRRiley; 03-13-2010 at 05:09 PM. Reason: damned typos
03-13-2010, 03:50 PM   #7
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Sadly, security guards here in norway are also concidered wannabee police. Luckily though, the wages are quite reasonable compared to many other countries.

These community officers sound a lot like regular security guards employed by the police. What kind of training do they have?
03-13-2010, 03:59 PM   #8
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Here's a Wiki link. Police Community Support Officer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

03-13-2010, 04:16 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by MRRiley Quote
Most of the time when they approach a photographer about taking photos, that photographer is on public property and they are very simply out of their jurisdiction. For a guard to come off of company property and start asking me why I am taking photos is just plain BS. The second I step onto property he is paid to protect, fine, have at me but when I'm on a public street or sidewalk... Back Off! They not only have no valid reason to question me, they also have no authority to question me. Most photographers know that, and I suspect you know that too...
Obviously I cannot comment on how things are done in the U.S. (I presume that's where you're from), but this would obviously be out of bounds for any security guard. In a case like this, they might be advised to observe to ensure that the photographers business is of an innocent one, but they certainly shouldn't be approaching them unless a law has been broken. Even if they were trespassing, my only right as a security guard here in Norway would be to ask for ID. If they refuse I must demand that they leave the premises. If they return after being given a clear warning though, we are permited to hold them until police arrive. You must be able to document somehow that a warning was issued though. Sadly most security guards are desperate to attract attention, something which goes agains the whole logic of doing security work. Surely the best thing would to be not to attract attention. The less problems a security guard causes, the more secure their object (what we in Norway call what where protecting) is.

I have never been stopped or questioned by law enforcement or security guards abroad so I am unable to comment on how they do things. I was reading an american publication though which I think was called "Security Management" and I must admit, I was a bit taken a back by the kind of advertisements they were using. They seemed to be heavily reliant on scare tactucs, claiming that you cannot trust anyone. everyone is your enemy, you have to protect yourself, etc. I loughed out loud when reading some of them. Here in Norway the majority of advertisements you se are related to securing your home from such things as fire and burglaries, wheras the american adverts where more concerned with more extreme cases. One advertisement was aimed at company directors asking if they and their bord leaders are safe from staff uprising and that they should concider an agreement with them to protect them from their workers. I've never seen anything like it here in Norway. Norwegian security companies tend to have more to do with protecting your workers from accidents and such.

Another thing which suprises me about security guards in america, but not britain, is their uniforms. It almost looks like they want them to resemble law enforcement uniforms. I know I would be confused by many of them. Here in Norway there are extremely stricts rules for the appearance of uniforms for security guards. One of the rules is that they MUST have "Vekter" which is norwegian for security written in easy to read writting on the right side over the chest. Personally I feel it should say security so as to make this more obvious to turists.

It's obvious that there are major differences from country to country. Here in Norway there isn't a single private security company which has permission from the goverment to carry weapons. The only security guards in the country which have firearms are the goverment employed ones working at the national bank. Their guns have been locked in a weapons safe. Apparently, they havn't been taken out of the safe for over 10 years.

I have lots more to say about Norwegian security companies, but I noticed that my post is already longer than what most people would bother reading :-p
03-13-2010, 04:29 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Damn Brit Quote
So basicly security guards wearing police uniforms which are basicly impossible for foreigners like me to tell apart from regular police officers :S. A private security firm talked to Norwegian authorities about starting such a service to make up for the lack of police. They were basicly mocked and ridiculed by police and the majority of polititions who all more or less agreed that police duties, should be reserved for qualified police officers, something which requires a 3-year law enforcement bachelor. I expect that a lot of the bad rep the police get is a result of these officers. There's nothing here which can compare to the cumminty officers in GB, and as someone who has experience with work as a security guard I hope they never introduce such a thing over here.

I think the biggest problem for many countries is the fact that there isn't a clear enough difference between law enforcement and security firms. I feel the Norwegian authorities have done a very good job in this respect as there are very strict rules and regulations which have to be followed. If these rules and regulations are not being followed, the company quickly loses it's rights to operate as a security firm.

QuoteQuote:
Turning to the building layouts... If they need plans of the building, they can go to the loacal building permits office and get them for the cost of the copy paper (most building plans are public information).
This isn't as easy in Norway. There's no reason why anyone should have the right to the blueprints of a building, and they are therefore not always easy to aquire through legal channels. They have to be aproved by the goverment, but there's little reason why the averege joe should have access to these.

Last edited by alehel; 03-13-2010 at 04:36 PM.
03-13-2010, 06:26 PM   #11
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Santa Monica pier...
Attachment 56904

Fashion Island...
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And

USBank in downtown Los Angeles on the 4th of July - a bank holiday and a national holiday...
Attachment 56906


Screwemall.

Last edited by SpecialK; 07-07-2010 at 07:30 PM.
03-13-2010, 06:55 PM   #12
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The fact that you should get into trouble for any of those is just plain laughable. The first one just makes me think WTF? The second and third are the kind of images you would find on google street view. What on earth are these people thinking? Maybe I'm just more sensable due to the fact that I'm a hobby photographer, but I can't imagine that any of the security personell where I work would object to something like this.

[EDIT] Also that last one is quite obviously photographed from outside their security guards area of responsibility. I'm not sure what kind of authority security guards have in the U.S. but here in Norway, they only have extra authority when they are located on the property of their employer. Their extra authority would therefore dissapair as soon as they leave the property.
03-13-2010, 06:56 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by alehel Quote
So basicly security guards wearing police uniforms which are basicly impossible for foreigners like me to tell apart from regular police officers :S. A private security firm talked to Norwegian authorities about starting such a service to make up for the lack of police. They were basicly mocked and ridiculed by police and the majority of polititions who all more or less agreed that police duties, should be reserved for qualified police officers, something which requires a 3-year law enforcement bachelor. I expect that a lot of the bad rep the police get is a result of these officers. There's nothing here which can compare to the cumminty officers in GB, and as someone who has experience with work as a security guard I hope they never introduce such a thing over here.
I think they are more than just security guards with police uniforms. I assume that they are better trained and they are under the control of a genuine police officer. Your point about being mocked and ridiculed by the 'real' police rings true now that you mention it. I'm sure the CPSO's are considered a joke and a cheap substitute by the regular force. That's probably another reason for them being over zealous on occasion.
I think, when it boils down to it, you have to have what it takes to carry out police duties effectively, obviously some wrong ones slip through the net. Most of these CPSO's don't have what it takes, otherwise they would be regular police officers (assuming the budget were there).
Here's a link to the Government website for these CPSO's Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) | Home Office
If you follow the link near the bottom of the page, you'll see that there is another level in the hierarchy below the CPSO. These are Special Constables who are unpaid volunteers, and are a better option than the CPSO's (for photographers anyway) because, in theory, they have more altruistic reasons for performing that role.
03-13-2010, 07:02 PM   #14
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I don't really understand the police's reasoning behind this. Had the distinction between regular police and the rest been clearer, then sure, but this is just downright confusing. Also I should note that it was the idea that was mocked and ridiculed. The idea was never put into motion. They didn't anywhere near enough support for it.
03-13-2010, 07:08 PM   #15
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QuoteQuote:
This is why many photographers get more than a little huffy when a police officer approaches us to ask why we are taking photos of... whatever.
And of course I guess the questioners expect that the innocent photographer will explain that the pictures are for his own personal use as travel memories or whatever.
I guess they expect the "bad guys" to explain that they are taking these in order to provide a local terrorist cell with source information that will be used for the bombing raid planned for 2:00 PM next Tuesday.
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