Interoperability | A New World of Collaboration

The word “interoperability” doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but it came to us through an article found in the security industry trade press. The word does reflect our thinking on the need for greater collaboration between the private sector and public safety response particularly in acute situations where lives are at put at risk.

To give you a backdrop to the use of this unusual word, Shergroup has had the privilege on occasions to work with the UK police in its daring operations to evict activists from a variety of properties – including world heritage sites such as Parliament Square and St Paul’s Cathedral in London. This work comes to Shergroup in its role as a leading provider of High Court enforcement services and removing trespassers from land and buildings.

In enforcing these large scale operations under High Court Writs of Possession, Shergroup has balanced its enforcement responsibilities alongside the very real need for public safety. It has found the police to be professional and open to these partnerships and the need to deliver the enforcement of the court’s order for possession. As such these operations have displayed large amounts of interoperability. Whilst these partnerships are based on a statutory requirement for the police to support the High Court Enforcement Officer in charge of the eviction operation, they could still be strained if the wrong approach were taken.

Shergroup has found various constabularies and policing partners to be highly supportive of what needs to be achieved and as such the police are willing to support the function of enforcement of a civil court order on many levels including lending experience and intelligence on planning and implementation of an eviction operation.

Over the years our CEO has been involved in building the enforcement response to Writs of Possession involving major protest hot spots. From the M11 in London going back to 1994, she has developed Health & Safety policies and procedures to provide the necessary backdrop of support to the entire enforcement operation.

Protests are a democratic right but they leave policing resources stretched, which means the eviction process had to take its turn in a long list of other priorities. We take a pragmatic approach to such situations and work with the police to keep them informed and aware of our own dynamic risk assessment. It may be surprising to know that protestors as trespassers on the sites we manage, leave of their own volition. This in turn reduces the need for police time and reduces the cost to the landowner.

So it was from this approach that an article in the Security magazine caught our CEO’s eye and her new word came on to her radar – interoperability. This word sums up Mrs Sandbrook’s own thinking, on the need for closer ties between private security (or enforcement) and public safety. In the enforcement world, Shergroup can rely on a statutory provision to seek police support. Outside of this they are a private sector company, whether it be in the UK or US. And yet they are delivering services which support policing operations in terms of public safety.

In the article (see ) the writer reported on the lack of collaboration between the private security officer who discovered the active shooter at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas in October 2017 and the fact that, despite being shot in the leg, he had no way to connect directly to the police without going via 911. The writer points out that going through 911 means talking to an operator who works through a script to triage the incident before actioning the required emergency service. In an active shooter situation vital minutes are lost as this process is worked through.

In fact, this one acute example should be enough to get people to really dig deep to under this unusual word – interoperability. This word is about how the two stakeholders bring their operations together to solve the issue – here the one of critical communication. The issue was one of saving the public from an active shooter. It doesn’t get any more vital than that. A senior police officer commenting on the situation was quoted as saying, “Now you have two elements of armed people responding to the same incident. Clearly it makes sense for them to be able to talk to each other. Communications deconflict potential problems in a joint response.”

The article goes on to say how to create true interoperability, changes have to be made both by the police and by private security. It’s a question of evolving and learning from incidents – some of which are so awful they should speed up the implementation process. The Mandalay Bay shooting is an extreme and terrifying example of the need for faster thinking.

The article calls for better training of the private security guarding community, and this is an ongoing requirement – and not just in the United States.

In the United States there are about 600,000 police officers and there are between 1 and 2 million private security officers. If something happens the way it did at Mandalay Bay, the security person is going to be the first responder because they are actually on site. Interoperabllity in a response plan means a first responder has direct access to the police and emergency services to warn of the location of the shooter, and to activate evacuation plans for the surroundings.

In order to create an interoperable commas environment between security and public safety, it is important to continue to collaborate and implement better systems of working together. It is our view that police forces across the world are missing a trick if they are not engaging with the private security industry to enhance communication, identify areas to improve, and generally view private security operations as a stakeholder in their overall policing planning.

In enforcement operations here in the UK interoperability has become a norm – it is a situation we share in the hope that other agencies are included in delivering their operations in conjunction with police support on an equal footing. Lives will be protected and saved from the risks that protests create. We have seen this for ourselves in what we do. We work hard to emulate the policing standards that we see, and in turn we believe we are recognized as that all important “safe pair of hands” which the police can rely on.


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