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roadsignPart 3 of Series – How Israel does Security Differently


Between 2002 and 2005 in Israel there was a wave of suicide bombings at restaurants and cafes that took hundreds of lives.  These places were targets because there are so many such establishments and because they were relatively unprotected. 


So what happened next? 


Restaurants made the decision to start posting security officers at their thresholds.  Thousands more security officers entered the industry and their wages increased two-fold.  Patrons were charged a fixed fee of about 25c per meal to pay for the increased security.  No customers complained about paying the premium.  And terrorist attack statistics dropped; see graph below.




In Israel, private security and to a degree civilians, are directly tasked with threat mitigation.  As is the case anywhere, law enforcement isn’t guaranteed to be in the right place at the right time to avert an attack.  Their role generally is to respond to problems once they erupt.


The role private security plays in Israel is part of a national security policy.  Various sectors: private security companies, patrol and response units, security consultants, installers and manufacturers all fall under a common regulatory umbrella.  As of 2016, there were approximately 100K security personnel working in Israel.  Half of these officers are regulated by the Police.  Officers posted at schools work under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education in conjunction with the Police.  Officers posted at schools take a six day training course and are required to get a refresher every 6 months.  Officers working with the Homeland Security Department undergo between 8-15 days of training with quarterly refreshers that include drills and simulations.  Officers who conduct security at border patrol posts are regulated under the Homeland Security department and the airport authority, in conjunction with the Police Department.  Officers at those kinds of posts are trained for a minimum of 6 weeks to as long as 6 months, depending on the particular assignment.  They are required to take very regular refresher courses, drills and exercises.


Generally speaking, many security officers do not see their role as a long term career but rather as a stepping stone to something else.  Part of the reason that private officers and not police officers are tasked with security is cost.  Police rates are high as are their pensions which combine to make their use more expensive than civilian forces.  But despite both these factors – salary and non-career – private officers are contracted in their roles for a fixed number of years.  The turnover that plagues the private security industry, at least in the U.S., is not such an issue in Israel.  Their pay is reasonable, they are well trained and they are valued.


Not surprisingly, private security company owners, managers and supervisors must also be certified at dictated levels in Israel.  They maintain certification via 8 different training academies accredited by the police department.  Refresher training is required yearly in order to maintain a private security company license.  The certification challenge is part of the reason for consolidation of companies; the smaller firms are edging out of this $2.4 billion industry.


Who becomes a security officer, the training they are required to pass, the methods they use and the procedures they follow are the result of policy.  A decision was made at a high level to conduct security in a certain way to avert a defined threat, that decision came first.  The policy springs from the security requirements of that mission.  The responsibilities for a given protected environment, be it private or public, are clearly allocated.  


Yet it seems that the reverse chain of events occurs here in the U.S., where procedures derive from requirements that have little to do with security.  Likewise, the nature of security services varies wildly from locatio to location.  Effort is too often made in a vacuum, at a distance from the actual security needs at hand.  There are few concrete decisions that lead to actual policy.  And training is dismal. 


So, the major themes of Israeli security practice are cohesive certification, centralized regulation and policy, plus extensive and continuous training.


The bottom line is that Israel as a country is willing to pay the price if it results in successful mitigation against pervasive terrorist threat.