Many governments, especially in Africa, lack resources to sufficiently provide security needs for all, prompting the establishment of private security firms to complement the government exertions in protecting the citizenry. Private security companies make a vital contribution to state security efforts. They are equally a significant employer.
With increased criminality and terror threats, this not only makes security big business, but has also prompted the Kenya Security Industry Association (KSIA), a federation of private security companies, to warn investors against fake firms.
The criticality of security to humans cannot be overemphasised; modern society depends on a security system that is available and accessible. Private security guards are the first line of security; they access control for most facilities in Kenya. Their major roles include not only guiding visitors, but also searching and frisking them for any item that may cause harm or threaten life. Most use bare hands, others metal detectors.
Questions are being asked about the viability or criticality of the guards’ roles, especially when searching visitors. A recent survey by a local television station revealed how an armed intruder can go through searching zones undetected, even after the “search”. It is about time we asked some pertinent and fundamental questions.
Is it time the guards were retrained, particularly on emerging threats? Do we do away with manual searching or frisking, for “walk-through” metal detection machines? How many organisations will afford it? How do the guards store firearms retrieved from visitors who are licensed gun holders? Do they know how to “make safe” when receiving or issuing arms? What if they found a visitor with an illegal gun?
Apart from CCTV, what other mechanisms are in place to ensure an all-round “Onion Layer” security arrangement that deters, denies, delays and detects threats? What of the response plan — and time?
Adam Curtis, a British documentary filmmaker, said: “Nobody trusts anyone in authority today.”
Wherever you look, there are lying politicians, crooked bankers, corrupt police officers, cheating journalists and double-dealing media barons, sinister children’s entertainers, greedy energy companies and out-of-control security services.”
This, then, implies that there is a general feeling by a section of Kenyans on the likelihood of the private guards being “out-of-control” if issued with firearms.
The National Security Advisory Committee is set to approve or reject a proposal to give guards guns. The Private Security Regulatory Authority came up with regulations on whom to grant a gun permit and the criteria for recruitment, training, follow-up, deployment and discipline of armed guards.
Though this has been received positively by the private security sector, most Kenyans are sceptical of the viability of the arrangement amid fears of gun misuse by the guards.
It’s prudent that private security management agencies be duty-bound to liaise with government agencies for thorough physical security and access control training of guards with focus on emerging threats. For now, arming them should not be the priority.
Mr Lusiola, a security consultant, is a PhD student. [email protected]