Security Industry Work Opens Doors to Careers In Policing

karpinskiMichael Karpinski hopes that working in the security industry will be a stepping stone to a career as a police officer.

The 24-year-old mobile patrol guard with Vancouver’s Provident Security & Event Management Corp. has a job that’s in many ways similar to police work. He patrols west side neighbourhoods, looks out for suspicious activity, and calls for backup if he comes across any criminal activity.

Once, he even had to perform CPR on a man who had collapsed at a house.
Vancouver Sun / Michael Karpinski hopes that his work with a private security company can help land him a job as a police officer.

“I started with Provident Security in mid-August,” Karpinski said in an interview. “My duties include alarm response and various tasks at the operation centre. I drive a car and look for suspicious activities and such. If an alarm goes off, we respond. Usually, it’s a false alarm, but sometimes it’s a break-and-enter.”

Karpinski, who has a university degree in political science and also took criminology courses, is hoping the experience will put him in line for a career with either the Vancouver police department, the Canadian Border Services Agency or the RCMP. He knows that police recruiters often check security companies for possible recruits and wants to be prepared when the opportunity arises.

“I got training in first aid and security,” added Karpinski. “And you have to keep your cool and use good judgement. Those are the types of things a police officer has to do. I talked to other recruits at information sessions and they said security would be a good way of getting in. There’s no other job like security that could be used as a stepping stone.”

Karpinski is not unique in signing up with a security company as a way to become a police officer.

In fact, the industry [which has historically lost security personnel to police departments] is now promoting itself to potential employees as a route to jobs with police agencies.

In many respects, the industry admits that wages and benefits as a security guard aren’t particularly attractive. So billing itself as a “training ground” for police officers is one of the benefits touted by security companies.

“We want people who like responsibility and use it as a stepping stone to becoming a police officer, law school or the fire department,” Provident president Michael Jagger said in an interview. “We’re not hiring bouncers. We don’t want a brute squad. We want smart people with common sense.”

Jagger, whose company has 6,000 customers on Vancouver’s west side, said business is brisk in the security industry, especially because of incidents such as the fatal shooting of Hong Chao “Raymond” Huang on the sidewalk in front of his house in the 3800-block of Cartier Street shortly last Saturday evening.

He said Provident hires at least a dozen security personnel a month and gets a lot of applications. “But, quality applications are a challenge. A lot of people are turned down.”

Jagger said Provident looks for people who have taken criminology courses — “I did the criminal justice program at Langara [College]” — as well as people in related fields, including lifeguards. “We look for things that are applicable. We have to become increasingly creative. Security is trainable.”

He said guards with his company make between $11 and $16 an hour, a wage he admits is not terribly high — although it’s higher than before. “There’s better ways to make money.”

However, Jagger said there are other jobs within security companies that pay a lot more. “Some of the guys come in as guards and develop an interest as an [alarm] installer, which pays about $25 an hour.”

Jagger said Provident tries to help guards get hired by police agencies and is even hosting an event soon for the Vancouver police department, which will speak to 15 or 16 of Provident’s employees.

“In the short term, we’ll lose good people, but in the long term it’s good because they come here to get experience. And for every 10 who move on, one or two stay here in the mobile team.”

Jagger said they also get a fair number of retired people signing up. “But the vast majority are under 30.”

Camil Dubuc, Genesis Security’s president and CEO, agreed in an interview that security work is a great place to start for people wanting a career as a police officer.

“It’s a transition between making a decision for your future,” said Dubuc. “We get retired people, but mostly people between 20 and 30.”

However, Dubuc, whose Vancouver-based company has 490 employees, said guards can also move up the ladder with Genesis and become managers, technicians or mobile patrol supervisors, who make more money. “Some of those who stay with us can go in different directions.”

One of those is Dave Sukic, Genesis’ director of community services and operations manager for the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association’s [DVBIA] ambassador and loss prevention team.

“I started out as a doorman at a nightclub when Genesis took over the contract,” Sukic said in an interview. “After that, I became a mobile supervisor. Then I was promoted to general manager of Genesis, [then] director of community services.”

Sukic said he supervises 31 personnel in downtown Vancouver, who not only look after the security of DVBIA members, but provide assistance to tourists in the area.

He said he makes over $40,000 a year, plus benefits and a profit-sharing plan.

“I considered policing,” said Sukic. “I took criminology. But [this job] is fantastic. It’s challenging and I love the diversity. Every day is different.

“And the industry is growing. There’s no sign of it slowing down.”

Sukic also said that security firms aren’t doing work that public police forces traditionally do. “It’s more eyes and more ears. We can lighten the load or assist [police]. And we only have the powers of arrest that any civilian has.”

A provincial government investigation in 2004 alleged that three-quarters of all the new security guards hired by large B.C. security firms started working without a licence.

Sukic said every employee at Genesis is licensed and has to undergo a 64-hour training course. “B.C. has the strictest regulations for security [companies] in Canada.”

Chuck Beaver, 68, has been working in the security industry since retiring from his job as a food broker in 1994.

The ex-Canadian serviceman first signed on with Commissionaires, a longtime provider of security services — particularly at airports and government buildings — that provides jobs for returning and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP.

Today Beaver works for Provident as a full-time site supervisor at Tech Data in Richmond, where he supplements his retirement income by supervising four or five security guards. He also monitors security cameras on site.

“[With Commissionaires] I worked for four-and-one-half years at the airport driving a shuttle bus,” said Beaver in an interview. “Then I went to Mobile Security as a mobile supervisor. I joined Provident five years ago and I like the work a lot.

“I expect to be doing it until the alarm clock doesn’t go off at the side of the bed or in my brain.”

Beaver works 40 hours a week and has no plans to slow down. “I was retired for two weeks and it was boring.”

He said that besides his pay, he gets extended medical benefits and dental. “It’s really good.”

Beaver said his 69-year-old wife is also working three days a week as a waitress.

Meanwhile, Commissionaires, which celebrated its 80th anniversary this week, is promoting a new strategy that includes a new recruitment drive aimed at providing jobs for returning Canadian soldiers.

“Our board has passed a policy that any reservist who is returning from operational duty who [lost] their job as a result of that, we guarantee them employment,” Allen Batchelar, President and CEO of Commissionaires BC, said in an interview. “We might be doing five or 10 a year. We’re here for veterans. That’s our primary purpose.”

Batchelar also said they also help returning veterans find other jobs when they leave Commissionaires, a not-for-profit organization that now employs 18,000 people across Canada and was founded to provide jobs for returning members of the Canadian armed forces over 80 years ago.

“Security isn’t the highest paying job. But we want to offer a landing site coming out of the military. If they move on to a better paying job, that’s fine. [We] assist them in finding a better job.”

Batchelar said that it’s been harder finding returning or retiring veterans to work in B.C. because of the closure of military bases. “We have about 65 or 70 per cent [of staff] who were formerly with the military or the RCMP. [But] we’ve broadened our recruitment base to include correctional services and others.”

According to a survey conducted by the University of Victoria and the Royal Canadian Legion, the majority of Canada’s military veterans have trouble transitioning to civilian life.

The survey of more than 200 veterans found that 53 per cent considered the move to the civilian world to be difficult or fairly difficult, with about one-quarter of respondents saying that finding satisfying post-military work was the key element of a successful transition.

Published November 10, 2007 · The Vancouver Sun · Written by Brian Morton

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