Security overkill

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

I’VE been seriously thinking how the security industry is making a killing in the civilian world. They’re taking advantage of their clients’ gullibility (or partnership in crime) by deploying as many guards as possible in and out, if not around our offices, shopping malls, office buildings, factories and car parks. Even in the presence of CCTV cameras and electronic sensors, you wonder why human intervention by security guards should still be necessary.

When you enter a car park building, you’d be amused if not annoyed, at two control centers that screen your body parts and car model. The first one is a computer monitor where you swipe your ID card and as soon as the boom barrier is lifted, you’d be halted by a second control, this time by at least two guards who would ask your full name, inspect and record your car model and plate number—as if you’re trying to enter the Pentagon.

At grocery stores, there is normally a security guard who checks your receipts against the merchandise in your grocery bag. That looks like a mindless attempt to mock the capacity of the million-peso worth of electronic sensors that these guards seem to think are nothing compared with face-to-face human control, powered by a 12-hour work shift, which is a standard industry practice.

That’s not all. Almost every day, you see traffic enforcers on the road, trying to justify their physical existence by vigorously waving their hands to motorists, unmindful of a well-functioning traffic light system. Sometimes, they have the bold capacity to make the automated lights irrelevant by waving a “stop” sign to motorists for no apparent reason (like a screening ambulance carrying mentally-incapacitated politicos), when the green light is on, and vice-versa.


When you talk to these people, you’ll be met by a blank stare, and with a soft, almost in a calm voice, they’ll tell you—“it’s better to be despised than to have a security breach” or words to the same effect, as though they’re potential heroes willing to sacrifice life and limb to bring to justice a 62-year old terrorist.

Imagine that foolishness under the guise of a well-intentioned security protocol. But in truth, such cumbersome procedure, more than anything, demonstrates a senseless, ridiculous attempt to take as much money from customers, if not to make their lives more difficult. “No, these electronic sensors and CCTV cameras are not enough,” security agency personnel are wont to say.

That’s why we see the prevalence of security overkill everywhere, where computers are pitted against human security guards as part of our everyday life (imagine the IBM-designed chess-playing computer Deep Blue pitted against Gary Kasparov.) Seriously, take it as a good example. How can human beings susceptible to fatigue, stress, and personal problems, among others win against today’s computers? Add to their fatigue the task of screening long queues of people non-stop while they’re on the job.

Since the time of Deep Blue-Kasparov chess match in 1997, computer programs have progressed many times over to prove that the machine beats humans, and needless to say, even when pitted against a number of security personnel who are on their toes, 12 hours a day, and six days a week.

Extra-processing is everywhere. It’s a detestable act, but many of you can’t understand them unless you remove your blinders. It’s similar in intensity to a mindless procedure of requiring a dozen signatures in a government transaction worth less than P1,000. In the private sector, you can also see this happening in the approval procedures at HR Departments for a simple application for a one-day vacation leave of an employee, who is entitled to a commensurate number of leave days per year in the first place but has to secure the signatures of at least three command-and-control bosses before he could take the day off.

Theoretically, extra-processing is a form of waste under a lean management. It must be reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Why not?

Multiply over-processing by a good number of security personnel doing duplicative jobs in several outposts or outlets, 30 days a month, 12 times a year and you’d readily see millions of pesos going down the drain or into the pockets of unprincipled office managers who are in the payroll of these equally immoral people from security agencies.

Of course, this is not a general indictment of all those people. It’s just that sometimes, we can’t help but think that these managers are simply imprudent and don’t know what they’re doing. Now, can you imagine the magnitude of the losses incurred by the government from this sort of wastage happening in thousands of its offices throughout the country?

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.

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