June, 1998 - Frank J. Moran plays the snare drum for the Law Enforcement Emerald Society of South Florida Pipe and Drum Band. As the security manager for Wackenhut Corp., he is putting his weight behind getting hoteliers to properly uniform their security officers. "Anyone who believes that a uniformed security officer isn't a deterrent to crime is nuts," he said.
Moran, a security professional, told me a "blazer" story. Recently, at an urban, city hotel in Miami, the property's 16 full-time security officers were dressed in dark blue blazers, gray flannel pants and white button-down shirts. No security emblems or badges adorned the uniforms. The security officers looked very preppie-instead of looking like security officers.
Unfortunately, the hotel had a problem-criminal acts against property
and guests were on the rise. In an attempt to lower the crime rate, the
director of security decided to abandon the "soft" dress code, and go "high
instead. He wanted his security officers visible and dressed to be seen. His rationale was most criminals prefer to do their business at hotels where there are no security officers watching them.
Finally, the officers looked like security officers. Moran told me all of the security officers liked their new uniforms. One officer commented that he liked looking more like a law enforcement official rather than taken for reception desk personnel.
Hotel guests expressed their comfort to management for the visible security presence. From the guests' standpoint, the more para-military looking, the better. Today's hotel guests do not want to become another hotel crime statistic; guests want competent security protection.
Lastly and most importantly, in the first 90 days after the introduction of the new uniforms, the hotel's crime rate plummeted. Crimes of distraction, such as stolen luggage from the lobby and briefcases from the restaurant, abruptly stopped. Other types of hotel crime significantly decreased, too.
I asked Moran to describe to me an ideal hotel security officer's uniform. He said it would consist of a military-style light colored shirt with epaulets, and button-flap chest pockets. He suggested long sleeves for formality. He recommends a conservative dark, single colored, clip-on-tie (the tie should pull off during an altercation rather than becoming a choking hazard).
Moran said security officer designation arm patches should appear on both sleeves. An officer's identification name tag should been attached over the right side pocket. Moran suggested a security badge be worn over the left shirt pocket, and he likes large, wide-brimmed Stetson cowboy hats or the traditional "Smoky the Bear" style ones. "I don't like baseball hats on security officers," Moran said. "They lack command appearance and aren't professional."
Pants, he says, should be dark in color and have no cuffs to get tangled up in during an altercation or chase. Military-style, pant-leg piping he claimed, adds additional command appearance. He recommended plain black belts and socks, and shoes with rubber soles.
"Blue blazers are great for hosts greeting guests, but not security officers greeting criminals," Moran said.
"What about mace or other sprays?" I asked. "Never!" said Moran. "Sprays are chemical weapons and require training before use, and, in hotels, the likelihood of spraying guests as well as criminals is too high of a risk to take."
"What about a radio?" I asked. "An excellent communication device, enabling
the officer to communicate with his superiors as well as other appropriate
authorities, is an essential part of an
officer's uniform," Moran said.
Understand, Moran said, the uniform is one of the tools that enable
security officers to successfully accomplish their tasks. Once the hotel's
director of security had issued for his security officers the new uniforms,
he then ordered an electric golf cart as part of his crime reduction program.
Today, a uniformed security officer patrols the hotel's outside property
seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The results: No criminal activity. Will
it last forever? No, but it works like magic now. Uniformed hotel security
officers are a deterrent to crime. Don't deter your
deterrent with improper uniforms.
Anthony Marshall, a lawyer, is dean of the School of Hospitality
Management at Florida International University in Miami.