Despite the size and wealth of our employers, most security officers are paid poverty wages, have few benefits, and receive minimal training. The average pay for security officers is less than $23,000 a year.
With such poor working conditions, few security officers stay on the job for long- – often resulting in inexperienced, poorly trained officers. A recent report on the private security services industry in the U.S. estimates that annual employee turnover in our industry still exceeds 100 percent for many security companies and can be as high as 300 to 400 percent for low-road firms.
These turnover rates rival those of the fast food industry and pose a serious risk to public safety as private security officers often are first responders to life-threatening emergencies.
While employee turnover fell somewhat during the economic crisis, the security industry’s “revolving door” approach — which ensures that inexperienced officers struggle to meet the demands of the job — remains a problem. More rigorous training of security officers would prepare officers to better deal with emergency situations, but too often such training does not exist.
Many of our fellow security officers report that they don’t receive training, or that training is very superficial. Often, more experienced officers are asked to train new hires during work hours. And when officers are transferred to new buildings, they’re not trained on the new building’s specific emergency procedures.
Sadly, half of all US states lack any requirement for training for all security officers, and 14 of those require less than three days of general security officer training. But the sad truth is that even if companies put more money into security officer training, the industry’s high turnover rates–with officers constantly leaving the profession to pursue other opportunities — would render the investment in training a waste of time and resources.
Despite the size of the security industry and its impact on public safety, in the United States there are few local, state, or federal standards to maintain quality. There are few legal standards to determine who should be able to serve as a security officer and what type of safety training and other skills officers should have. Therefore training is often left in the hands of security contractors who want to keep costs to a minimum and put officers on the job quickly in order to overcome high turnover rates.
Given the wide disparity on basic requirements for private security officers from state to state, and the many that have weak rules or no standards at all, our movement to raise standards in the industry is a key factor in keeping the public safe.