Public perceptions of private security officers should change after amendments to the Private Security Industry Act were passed earlier this month. Private security officers play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and security of the premises to which they are deployed. That is why they are there. However, they lie somewhat outside the arena of respect that is accorded to uniformed personnel such as the police, who are seen rightly as representatives of the State whose authority cannot be dismissed or questioned without the risk of attracting legal sanctions. Security officers occupy the border between deference to authority and indifference to a non-employee of the state.
That position can invite something far worse than the insult of being ignored by some members of the public. An average of about 150 cases of abuse of security officers was reported each year from 2018 to last year. Security officers say that it has become increasingly common for them to be subjected to some form of abuse, with the coronavirus pandemic being blamed for increased tensions. A survey of 1,002 officers, conducted between September and November last year, found that two in five security officers were exposed to some form of abuse in the course of their work. The officers were subjected to verbal abuse most commonly. The reason was in part the need for additional security checks in the light of safe measurement measures introduced to combat the pandemic. Essentially, the officers were punished for trying to do their job. Punishment extended to physical abuse in some cases. Clearly, that is an intolerable situation, not just for the officers involved but also for the wider public, whose safety they enhance every day, particularly amid the crisis created by Covid-19.