Do more to find out plight of security officers

The onus to improve productivity appears to be shouldered disproportionately by the security officers expected to fulfil training requirements.
The onus to improve productivity appears to be shouldered disproportionately by the security officers expected to fulfil training requirements.PHOTO: ST FILE

The stiffer penalty regime for private security officers, who can now be punished if caught slacking, sleeping on the job or breaking the rules, is ostensibly important for security or defence reasons (Penalty regime for private security officers; Jan 18).

However, the first-hand views of the officers - especially in a collective, systematic manner - are rarely featured, and comparatively little attention is paid to their work conditions and benefits.

Furthermore, the onus to improve productivity appears to be shouldered disproportionately by the officers expected to fulfil training requirements.

Little is also said about what their employers ought to do, in terms of technological advancements or improvements to the well-being of the officers.

That is not to say that security officers are never guilty of transgressions.

But the discourse seems to have privileged the perspectives of the security companies - who have mostly praised the penalties - and not much is understood about the circumstances or plight of the officers working long and oftentimes monotonous 12-hour shifts, and whose supposedly critical roles and responsibilities are not necessarily commensurate with adequate remuneration or benefits.

For instance, what difficulties do they face on the job? And what other industrywide changes would they like to see?

If there is a recommendation for a blacklist of security officers with bad track records, should there be one of companies, too?

In this vein, the discourse should shift to broader improvements in the industry and what companies in particular can do.

Ideas include outcome-based contracts "that leverage technology and reduce the time officers need to clock in", working around the resistance clients may have in the beginning, as well as crafting arrangements to manage the amount of time officers spend on the job and hence decreasing the associated fatigue (Giving security officers peace of mind, despite the penalties; Jan 18).

As counter-intuitive as it may be to the financial bottom line of the security companies, perhaps a useful starting point for the long term would be prioritising the needs and welfare of their officers and helping them do their jobs.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2019, with the headline 'Do more to find out plight of security officers'. Print Edition | Subscribe