Whitney Gunter
Jason Kidwell
York College of Pennsylvania
June 2004

Webster defines liaison as the "communication for establishing and maintaining mutual understanding and cooperation (as between parts of an armed force)." As defined, a liaison program enables communication to travel as a constant between police, private security and other business entities. Respect and trust will come along with information sharing, cooperation, and consistency. While a liaison program is beneficial to both parties, normally the smaller, less powerful department will start it. The only exception to this is when the larger department uses the "locking the barn door after the horse has left" approach, which is reaction instead of prevention.


Looking at the history of something has many functions. It establishes what benefits and costs came with events of the past. Equally important is seeing what worked and what did not. Historically, private security and law enforcement agencies have not always maintained consistent relationships. A 1971 study conducted by the Rand Corporation described the typical private security guard as an aging white male, who was poorly educated and poorly paid. In 1976, the Private Security Advisory Council, through the U.S. Department of Justice, identified two main factors which contributed to poor relationships between law enforcement and private security: 1) their inability to clarify role definitions and 2) their practice of stereotyping (May, 1998). The Hallcrest Report has also been highly credited for examining relationships between law enforcement and private security.

The Hallcrest Report, published in 1985 by the National Institute of Justice, discovered that various law enforcement officials, together with proprietary and contract security professionals, decided to convey police related actions to private security. Similarly, the Hallcrest Report II (Private Security Trends) concluded that private security is America's primary protective resource in terms of spending and employment. For example, the Hallcrest report found that private security currently employs approximately 1.5 million people and maintained annual expenditures of $52 billion. On the other hand, approximately 600,000 individuals are employed with federal, state, and local law enforcement and maintain a $30 billion expenditure service. Last, the increasing growth of private security and the limited growth of law enforcement is due to four main factors, according to the Hallcrest Report: 1) increasing workplace crime, 2) increasing fear of crime, 3) a decreasing rate of spending for public protection, and 4) increasing awareness and use of private security effective protective measures.

In addition, police typically held private security officers to a lower standard because of their limited powers, whereas security directors believed police were uninterested or incapable of handling their crime; especially computer, white-collar, and in the extreme, terrorism offenses. The trend of these relationships in recent years however, has been toward partnership and liaison. For example, in the 1980's, only a handful of private security and law enforcement liaison programs existed, while today there are over 60 liaison programs in operation. In turn, Operation Cooperation has been a recent contributor to the encouragement of public-private teamwork.

"Operation Cooperation, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice and supported by the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), represents a major national initiative to encourage partnerships between law enforcement and private security organizations"(Connor, et al., 2000). Operation Cooperation (2000) also identifies various liaison programs operating in the United States today:

  • Pooling Resources in Defense of our Environment (PRIDE). PRIDE is sponsored by the Southfield Michigan Police Department and has been in effect since 1981. The membership of PRIDE consists of over 150 businesses and includes private security organizations. Along with the private security organizations, several police departments around Southfield also participate. A sergeant of the Southfield Police Department serves as the director or coordinator of PRIDE. PRIDE maintains three major duties or activities: monthly meetings, the PRIDE fax network, and training of private parking enforcement officers. The members of PRIDE meet once a month. Police are responsible for organization of the meetings and address/focus on a topic of interest to the business communities. In turn, there is no set cost for members except to sponsor a meeting. The PRIDE fax network is run by the Southfield Police Department and at least once a week, the department faxes important information to businesses. The fax network also provides the opportunity for businesses to communicate non-emergency information to police. Last, Southfield police officers train those private security officers who have been given the authority to enforce parking laws on private property. The private security officers handle violations involving handicapped parking areas, fire lanes, and traffic congestion.
  • Virginia Police and Private Security Alliance (VAPPSA). Northern Virginia law enforcement and private security professionals whom attended the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's Operation Partnership training together founded VAPPSA. VAPPSA is a formal organization broken down into five divisions: law enforcement, security alarm, private investigators/contract security, retail/mall security, and corporate security. VAPPSA also holds monthly meetings with informative speakers on topics relating to the private security and law enforcement interests. Like PRIDE, VAPPSA runs a Fast Fax System in order to share crime information with other entities.
  • Dallas/North Texas Regional Law Enforcement and Security Program (LEAPS). Originally, the LEAPS developed in 1983 but revitalized itself in 1993 after a period of turnover. The LEAPS committee contains the deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department (DPD), and at most three private security representatives from each of the nine business sectors. As well, one police officer from each DPD division is assigned to the program. Some major focuses of the LEAPS include the following:
    • Security Officer Training: The DPD Police is in charge of training security officers on topics of interest to both police and private security. The training sessions are conducted at police substations and give security officers an increased status and in turn assure police that security personnel are trained.
    • Special-Interest Relationship Building: Corporate security directors in the Dallas area wanted a better yet closer relationship with the Criminal Investigation Division, therefore, LEAPS was able to arrange a meeting between the two groups.
    • Fax Net 1 Information Service: Fax Net 1, like VAPPSA and PRIDE, provides a source of disseminating crime information between police and security organizations.

    The LEAPS program has succeeded in building a better relationship between the police and private security sector.

  • Area Police/Private Security Liaison (APPL): The NYPD and chief security directors amongst New York City founded the APPL in 1986. The goals of the APPL were to enhance police and security cooperation in the protection of people and property, to exchange information, and to help eliminate the credibility gap between police and private security. The APPL originally consisted of only 30 security organizations, but it now has expanded to include more than 1,000. Thus, the APPL is the largest cooperative liaison program between police and private security in the nation. Some of the major functions of the APPL include the following: 1) monthly and annual meetings. 2) An inventory of private sector closed-circuit television installations for use in criminal investigations. 3) A specialized business crime squad in Midtown Manhattan. 4) Training for Security Supervisors. 5) Monitoring of security-related legislation and 6) inclusion of private security representatives in the NYPD command and control center during specific emergencies.

Based on these liaison programs, it is noticeable that public and private
partnerships exist in many forms and suit the needs of many entities. Partnerships and liaison programs vary in the following ways:

  • Degree of Formality - Programs can either be formal, non-profit partnerships, clubs with separate laws and representatives, or informal partnerships.
  • Mission Statements - Some programs seek to solve specific problems, while others are created for information sharing and networking.
  • Leadership - Law enforcement personnel head some public-private partnerships, while others are led by the private security sector. In turn, other partnerships may utilize a joint leadership of both law enforcement and security. Partnerships also vary in funding.
  • Funding - There are numerous models by which liaisons are funded. Some programs contain no budget, while others are significantly funded and sponsored. Liaison programs may receive funding through programs that participate in the partnership (police agencies, private security companies, and other business entities), through sponsors and insurance companies, or through police foundations such as the Fraternal Order of Police.

Although liaisons and partnerships vary from program to program, they share similar characteristics. The following identifies common characteristics between liaison programs:

1) Networking:

  • Social gatherings designed to discuss common problems and aid each entity in understanding others in the program.
  • Lectures by security professionals at police training and vice versus.
  • Directories of police and security contacts.

2) Information Sharing

  • Exchange of information on crimes and criminal convictions between law enforcement agencies and the private security industry.
  • Exchange of business crime in the same manner.

3) Crime Prevention

  • Joint participation in business safety and security programs.
  • Community policing.
  • Addressing issues of local concern as it relates to police and security.
  • Joint public-private support of neighborhood watch programs.

4) Training

  • Establishing training sessions on topics of interest and need (specifically terrorism and crime trends.
  • Exchange of training and expertise where the other entity lacks.
  • Police training of security and vice versus.

5) Legislation

  • Joint supporting of laws and ordinances regarding security officer standards and licensing.

6) Operations

  • Investigations
  • Incident planning and/or safety committees.
  • Joint sting operations and special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams

7) Research

  • Review and distribution of recent publications regarding current issues and technology within the public-private sectors.

Despite their differences, law enforcement agencies and private security organizations have increasingly come together to prevent and deter crime. Formality may differ, but all partnerships work to protect life and property. Thus far, the history of police and security relationships has been analyzed, various liaison programs have been presented and the ways that partnerships vary has been displayed. The next section presents the steps for starting a liaison or partnership program.

Starting a program

To start an effective program, a department will need to devote a substantial amount of time. The first step in creating a program is to research the other department and learn what they do. A department should be able to answer the following questions. Where do they patrol? Do they have bike or foot patrols? Do they have specific beats, or random patrol? What are their procedures? How many people are on patrol, total and simultaneously and know crime statistics for their district? Those interested should be sure to read about the department too. Newspapers and web site contain valuable information. Those are just the basics; as the program evolves, the knowledge will expand. Finally, one should ask if there is any other current participation in liaison programs with other law enforcement departments; if they do, it will be very important to research those programs as well.

The second step is earning respect. If a department deserves it, it will probably get it. Otherwise, it will have to work for the respect. The DO GOOD acronym can help if the other department has "The Superiority Complex" or if a department needs improvement.

Dedication to the relationship - Don't give up. If the other department isn't showing respect, falling into despair won't help.
Officer Respect - Show respect. Don't start the "if you won't respect me, I won't respect you" game.
Good control - No officer should ever lose his or her temper or get frustrated, especially in the presence of the other department. For example, nothing makes a police officer less respectful than driving through rush hour traffic, only to see a security officer acting immature by losing his or her temper and yelling at the suspect.
Official voice - Don't stutter, avoid words such as um or like, and don't speak in a manner in which no one can understand what is being said. In turn, make sure information being exchanged is accurate and credible.
Official appearance - Don't make common errors, like tapping feet and looking away from the person or officer you are speaking with. Whether wearing a uniform, a suit, or ordinary street clothing, keep your appearance professional.
Demonstrate a commitment to excellence - Let everyone see it. Everyone. Everyday.

Since a liaison program is essential for success, every entity will require different things from it. In the third step, a department needs to make other entities aware of what is needed from the relationship and what benefits will be a result. The members should start having meetings, or discussing issues over the phone. This may be a long process, or only take a few days. Consistent communication between the entities involved is essential.

The fourth and final step of starting a program is implementing and monitoring it. Once a program is started, it will require adjustments like any other relationship. It will not be perfect from the start. Agents need to find out what works and what does not. They should then change what doesn't and improve what does. This step may include training for both departments to make sure every agent knows the new rules and regulations that are becoming part of their department. The monitoring part of this step will continue as long as the program does. If monitoring ceases, the program will slowly dissipate.

Elements of Failure

While the ultimate goal of a liaison or partnership is maintaining the program, sometimes the program experiences conflict leading to failure. Some common elements of failure include the following:

  • ·Problems are not readily addressed or solved. Sometimes departments or business entities have internal conflicts within their organizations and do not have time to address the needs of the program.
  • Founders or Coordinators retire. This poses as a problem because others may not have the skills, knowledge or contacts to keep the program running.
  • Egos and personalities interfere with the mission of the program. As noted in the history section, police typically hold security to a different standard and may try to be dictators of the program. Joint leadership between entities is one method of minimizing egotism in the program.
  • Funding is insufficient or inadequate. In order to be successful, funding is equally important as maintaining the program. Thus, for the program to establish credibility there must be a consistent source of funding. Funding may be obtained through various means and may be aided by proper marketing strategies and techniques.
  • Meetings fail to supply interest to the participants in attendance. This can be avoided by conducting training sessions related to current issues and bringing in guest speakers or experts on various topics of interest.

In order to minimize the risk of failure, the liaison program must establish a mission that is appealing, beneficial to all entities, and properly funded.

Maintaining the program

With proper maintenance, a liaison program creates trust and understanding between the parties involved. To better understand what is needed to maintain the program, remember the KICKBUT acronym:

Keep in touch - Just communicating when there is a problem isn't enough. Have monthly meetings, weekly if possible. Know what's happening within other departments and within the business community. Even if information isn't related to all departments, all entities should be informed of current developments.
Incorporate similar procedures - Don't try to be identical in every way. It's the little things that make the difference. For example, one department might not require the age of a complainant, but if the other department does, that information should be recorded anyway.
Computer programs working together - Even if a computer isn't used to file reports, there are other ways to communicate through them, such as e-mail and databases.
Know what's expected of each entity - Obtain mission statements, and Standards of Operations and Procedures (SOP's) from all police and security departments. This will enable education of each department's abilities and constraints.
Become one - Functioning together. For example, divide and conquer. People trying to get money through lawsuits may try "the shotgun approach," which is suing everyone at once so they fight against each other. Everyone will claim it's the other's fault. Working together prevents the shotgun approach from working.
Understand each other's abilities - Everyone has limits, for example, a security officer witnesses a theft and calls the police to report it prior to confronting the suspect. The suspect hides the stolen goods before the police arrest him. The police release the suspect because they don't have enough evidence and question the security officer's integrity. In order to minimize confusion, the security officer should remember the following circumstances for contacting the police.1) When there is information to exchange; the security may not have had enough evidence for an arrest by the police; 2) to have someone arrested; the security officer should have detained the suspect while he/she had the stolen goods; and 3) when there is an immediate danger or need for additional manpower.
Timely informing - Establish online list serves or fax systems where pertinent information can disseminate to all entities in the liaison. Weekly or monthly meetings are also a consistent way of relaying information.

Liaisons In Sum

In conclusion, liaison is defined as the communication for establishing and maintaining mutual understanding and cooperation (as between parts of an armed force). Historically, the relationships between law enforcement and security have not been sufficient, however, the recent trend is towards partnership and cooperation. The DO-GOOD and KICKBUT acronyms are effective tools for both starting and maintaining a successful liaison program. In turn, it is essential to recognize the elements of failure in order to know what problems may arise in the future. Essentially, liaisons are the building blocks of safety and security in America.

Whitney Gunter is a junior at York College of Pennsylvania. He is a Criminal Justice major with a minor in Asset Protection. He also works as a security officer in the Department of Campus Safety and Security.

Jason Kidwell is a sophomore at York College of Pennsylvania. He is a Criminal Justice major with minors in Business Administration, Human Resource Management, and Asset Protection. He is also a candidate for the Certified Protection Officer exam and worked as a security officer in the Department of Campus Safety and Security.


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