When security fails

Alison Wakefield, Martin Gill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the prominence of the commercial security sector in the international, national and local provision of security and policing continues to expand, research knowledge on its core characteristics, organisation and effectiveness remains piecemeal. One aspect of security effectiveness that has, until now, been neglected is the process of buying security services. Our research, conducted in the UK, but including a small number of overseas participants, comprised group discussions and semi‐structured interviews with commercial security managers, contract security managers and others in the retail and/ or security sector, and self‐completion questionnaires designed respectively for uniformed security officers and retail branch managers. The research findings show how the realities of deploying security personnel can differ markedly from the initial rationale for using them, with an adverse effect on performance. The research reveals many common inadequacies in the local management of security personnel, and their integration with other security measures. Our findings thus illuminate how limitations in security practice can occur and how they begin with the ways in which security is procured in the first place. The research should be of interest as well as concern to those using or evaluating commercial security services, but also of value to all those with a stake in today's ‘pluralised’ policing environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-23
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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