Perception of security officers as an essential role ranked ‘slightly ahead of traffic wardens’

Monday 19 October 2020 - BSIA, SyI, SyCom

Press Information

The current public perception of security officers seen as playing an ‘essential role’ in the United Kingdom, both prior and during the COVID-19 pandemic, is ranked only ‘slightly ahead of traffic wardens’, according to a recent survey. 

Perceptions of the security officer, carried out by YouGov on behalf of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the Security Institute (SyI) and the Security Commonwealth (SyCom), as part of the ‘Hidden Workforce’ campaign. The survey’s objective was to understand the current perception of security officers amongst the British public and to understand the extent of the key issues they face, namely potential lack of respect, recognition and underestimation of their role.

While 31% of those polled believed that security officers are fundamental to keeping the UK safe and secure, with 41% indicating respect and a feeling of safety due to the work that security officers carry out, the role of the security officer ranked 9th out of 10 essential services, behind postal workers and pharmacists, and just ahead of traffic wardens, who were ranked 10th. When asked about these roles during COVID-19, security officers were not mentioned at all as an essential service.

The Top 3 were NHS workers, nurses and care workers.

When asked about which characteristics describe the personality of a security officer, the highest scores were ‘honest’, ‘alert’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘brave’ and confident, but some respondents looked at officers as being ‘authoritative’, ‘rigid’, ‘burly’, ‘threatening’ and ‘unintelligent’. Respondents also felt that the crimes that security officers help prevent are shoplifting, anti-social behaviour and petty crime, and that officers should only work closely with the police if asked.

Mike Reddington, Chief Executive, BSIA, said: “The results of the YouGov survey, Perceptions of the Security Officer, highlight that, whilst a good level of the general public feel safe and reassured in the presence of a security officer, they do not see their services as essential and even less so during the recent pandemic. Although security officers were recognised by the UK Government as key workers during this time, it seems that the perception of the role they play in our daily lives is still at a low level and this needs to be addressed urgently.”

Rick Mounfield, Chief Executive, the Security Institute, said: “The public seem unaware of the critical role security officers play in supporting the Police in deterring crime and terrorism, let alone their intervention when theft, robbery and attacks occur. The survey demonstrates that the average citizen in the UK pays little to no attention to what a security officer is doing. 

“However, this is not all bad, because a good security posture should be low key until crisis hits.  The important aspect is that the public should at least, recognise what security officers provide, ensuring their safety. These are the people they will look to in a crisis.” 

The YouGov survey is part of the campaign that the BSIA is running with the Security Institute and the Security Commonwealth, ‘the Hidden Workforce – resetting the perceptions of the security officer’, which aims to change this perception of security officers in the long term and to reset the perception of the security officer as a respected, valued, professional service provider, contributing to and creating a safe and secure environment that is critical to protecting people, places, and property – a key worker that is acknowledged and embedded in our daily lives.

To reflect a modern inclusive and diverse security workforce, the BSIA has also introduced new terminology across its communications platforms. The Association will be discontinuing the use of the terms ‘security guarding’, ‘manpower’, ‘manned guarding’, ‘security guard(s)’ and ‘security guarding section’, replacing them with ‘Security Officer Services’ and ‘security officer’.

The YouGov survey was commissioned in September, with over 2000 respondents aged between 18 and 55 from the ABC1 and C2DE backgrounds. 


Press contact

Katherine Ingram | Public Relations & Communications Officer 

[email protected] | 07764 968 196


Notes to editors

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA) is the trade association for the professional security industry in the UK.

BSIA members are responsible for more than 70% of privately provided UK security products and services (by turnover) including the manufacture, distribution and installation of electronic and physical security equipment and the provision of security guarding and consultancy services. Their members are industry professionals ranging in size from global companies to small and medium enterprises, offering quality products and services to a vast spectrum of end-users.

The Security Institute (SyI) is a United Kingdom based professional body for security professionals. Membership of the Institute is open to security professionals, with other individuals with an interest in security being able to become affiliated.

The Security Commonwealth (SyCom) is an umbrella organisation of independent membership bodies across the security industry. It provides a forum to consult and co-operate in the common interest and in the promotion of professionalism, good practice and information sharing to enhance UK security.

The City Security Council (CSC) was been established by leading Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) security providers.  Originally a collaborative partnership between City based security companies and the City of London Police formed to assist them and the City of London Corporation whenever there is a major incident, crises or significant event that takes place within the footprint of the Square Mile in the City.  Its strategic aim is to explore ways to improve collective responses to threats from terrorism, crisis or emergencies, which affect the City of London.

The Cross-sector Safety and Security Communications (CSSC) initiative, was founded in June 2011 by a team of senior security experts, with the aim of building a messaging platform, to facilitate communications between the private and public sectors, on issues surrounding security and business resilience.

The Hidden Workforce – resetting perceptions of the security officer campaign aims to “reset the perception of the security officer as a respected, valued, professional service provider, contributing to and creating a safe and secure environment: critical to protecting people, places, and property – a key worker that is acknowledged and embedded in our daily lives.”

The YouGov survey was commissioned to find out to understand the perception of Security Officers amongst the British public to:

Understand the extent of the key issues facing Security Officers, namely: 

Lack of recognition for their contribution to society & public safety, in particular when compared to the police and other key worker groups

Lack of respect for individuals

Lack of understanding/underestimation of their role and skillsets

 To build a robust argument to take to the rest of the security industry, in order to encourage participation (and investment) in the campaign

 To generate statistical evidence that can be used for PR outreach, with the aim of securing attention-grabbing headlines in the National press