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Secure bullying
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-05-19 10:01:18
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Yesterday Asa wrote an article about the events he and his friends had to deal with in the Helsinki Beer Festival. I’m not going to say anything about the organizers of the festival and the pimp’s attitude, the over-pricing and the use of an event to make a barnstorm out of the people’s wish enjoy a summer evening with some good beer and music. This is at least disgusting but in the end the organizers are the ones who have to deal with it since they obviously underestimated something everybody involved with marketing knows very well, the worst and the best advertisement is the mouth-to-mouth advertisement.

Here there is another element often forgotten or better intentionally missed in Finland, the power of the foreigners living mainly in Helsinki, a check on the Finn stats will persuade any opposition. A consuming power that is badly underestimated or misused and mislead by occasional savers and defenders of the foreigners who are interest only for their pockets. But as I said before the market has its own ways to deal with these things and truth finds always its way out. I’m going to stop in the security people’s attitude because I think it is far more serious and it shows a growing threat to the public’s security. Amazing and oxymoron but unfortunately true.

I worked for over fifteen years of my life for companies leading in their fields internationally in positions that gave me access to the decision making and valuable information. One of the companies I worked for was a retail cooperation with interests all around the world and tens of thousands of employees and naturally security and confidentiality was a main issue to all of them. All of them had security teams employed and the retails one was forced to create and organize their own security organization. But as I said been a member of the directors’ board I had access to statistics that in the beginning really shocked me. As most know retail business and that includes supermarkets, department stores, textile stores and others have one permanent problem and that is stealing items. Apparently most think that this happens from organized thieves and customers. It is true but this is not the biggest enemy of those shops.

Unfortunately over than 40% of the stolen things are going to people who work for those cooperatives and here comes the biggest shock I had, out of this 40% over than 60% is stolen from the very same people who are responsible for the security of those items. In the ten years I worked for this retail cooperative I witnessed the most unbelievable things that included from stealing items, organized robberies to criminal violence and bulling that targeted even fellow employees and members of the directors’ board. Actually we often felt that we had to do with a group of brainless Rambos that was uncontrollable most of the time and they had become the necessary evil.

One evening I remember I stormed into the office of the security director really angry demanding from him to fire a member of his team because I had witnessed an incident where the security man had actually hit in the face a customer because he touched an item and bullied him that if he will say anything he would find where he lived. Fortunately he didn’t recognized me, I was actually doing my personal shopping and when I  tried to interfere he pulled out a truncheon and threatened me, something strictly illegal and forbidden from the company. The security director, a former high ranking policeman looked at me and he said, “They think they are the law!” Since that incident we forced once a week every single security member from South America to China to follow hourly lessons of behavior and no, unfortunately very little change because they still thought that the uniform made them the law and everybody has to obey!

I think somewhere there is the first key to the problem. The private security or any kind of security people are not, and please emphasize that, are not policemen and even policemen are not, again emphasize it, are not the law. The police work is to protect and serve the public who is their real boss, employer and the one who makes the laws thought the elected governments and the elected parliaments. Period! The police are executive instrument of the democracy and they work under the letter of the law and that’s why they are controlled for every action they take. Under certain circumstances they can use force but that’s again under the instructions of the law and again the actions are controlled and they have to answer for every single action they take. Private security companies are nothing of the above! Period!

They are private citizens who wear a uniform just like any other uniformed profession. Most of all they are obliged to respect the law more than anybody else since they are there to remind the law and not to force it. The use of force and further more the bulling is illegal and punishable. They are not allowed to carry any kind of weapons and further more use them. If they see a crime they are obliged to call the police and not become the police. Most of all nobody has to obey them, they must suggest, they must kindly remind and if they have a problem they must call the police and they cannot force and they cannot expect obedience! Any other act is an violation of the law and that’s exactly what the security man in the Helsinki Beer Festival did. He was lucky for two things, first of all because his colleague who tried to hold him obviously was more aware of the law and the consequences and because the harassed people couldn’t be bothered to take it to the police.

The people employed from those private security companies are usually people with military training and a lot of them with a lot of steroids. I’m sorry I’m not following stereotypes; they create them since the security companies find their people among former soldiers and athletes, that’s what they demand, that’s what they ask mainly because even they have forgotten what they are for. The majority of them have tried for a career in the police force or in the army and failed which should say something. They get a very limited training which mainly has to do with their physical condition and nothing to do with what security means.

Something very important that policemen go though except their training is the physiological evaluation and they do that often knowing that their career depends on that evaluation. Who evaluates the people of the private securities? And here is the sensitive part, the states obligations. The state makes laws that put the rules in all the professions, when you work in a building you have to wear protective gear, this is obliged, controlled by the right authorities and punishable any infraction. The same has to happen with the security companies. Actually the rules that govern security companies have to be more carefully made since they have to do with the public safety. And this has to be done now before the next incident will be tragic if it hasn’t already happened.

Asa’s article yesterday perhaps it should work as an awakening with too many recipients. First of all the consumers that should not sleepily fall to every misleading promotion, then that the consumers should act and not let fear, ignorance or negligence to push them around. Then everybody should remember that nobody is above the law and nobody is the law. For this job there are the courts and the parliament. Finally if security companies are there to bully then we have a serious problem and a threat to the public safety that should be shorted out soon with the help of the law!

Finally I would expect and apologizing letter with some explanation from the security company that caused the whole thing in the Helsinki Beer Festival that would include the name their member who acted that way in a case the harassed wanted to take further action. This would show first dignity and then respect to the law and the people but you see as I said before the problem is not only on the members but in the head as well, the security companies think that they are the law and that they are above the law and that makes them danger to the democracy!

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Law2009-05-19 10:04:28
In Finland, all contract security guards are required to have a valid license granted by police. Temporary license is valid for four months and normal license for five years. License requires a minimum 40 hours course for temporary license and 60 hours more for a normal license. Additionally a narrow security vetting is required. The 40 hours course allows the carrying of a fixed-length baton and handcuffs, separate training and license is required for the security guard to carry pepper spray, extendable baton or a firearm. In Finland, a security guard has the right to arrest a person "red-handed", or seen committing a crime and the right to search the detained individual for harmful items and weapons. All companies providing security guarding services are also required to have a valid license from Ministry of the Interior.

Thanos2009-05-19 10:08:59
The arrest part is called "citizen arrest" and it is legal in every country, still the police should be informed straight away and take charge of the event.

batons and handcuffs?2009-05-19 22:18:22
batons and handcuffs are a bit too much... can't they use just pepper sprays and limited voltage tasers, strictly for self-defense? (and they have the obligation to show a higher threshold than common people, even or particularly in self-defense situations). contradictorily, studies reveal that the more arms the private security guards carry, the more insecure common citizens feel.

Martin Glantz2009-05-23 01:13:03
In Finland there also is a legislated difference between a security guard "vartija" and a person, who is working as security at an event , "järjestyksenvalvoja". An event security persons active working focus is on public safety and general order, as the security guard normally watches over property. The legislation is in constant change, which creates misunderstanding among citizens and especially among foreigners.
Both of the above must pass training and a test and be approved by local police to get the permit to work as security anywhere. If there are wrongdoings, the police usually revokes the permit.
As there obviously are doubts about the professionalism and abilities of finnish security personnel and a Mr Thanos also has a major misconception about the career path of finnish event security, I warmly invite You to join us at any event we are working at to aquaint yourself with the everyday situations at a finnish event and the ways these incidents are dealt with.
Whatever You have encountered at one time at a given place logically does not
necessary apply in another country at another time.
We in Finland do not have a professional army, nor has our present police force any tradition of a dictatorships militia. Most event security personnel are normal people with some other day job, but work at events because they need some extra money, like festival work or enjoy working with other same-minded people. They are not out to harass anybody, nor to pick fights. You might not believe it, but many are fathers and even mothers with a genuine concern for the well-being of eg. drunken teenagers.

Enjoy Your finnish festival summer

Martin Glantz glantz_martin@hotmail.com

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