Observation Skills Lacking in Security Training


Security training lacks industry relevance

In the current licensing and training requirements a person that wants to be a security guard and obtain a valid licence must complete a Certificate II Security Operations.

In all the training sessions and security company manuals that security guards use for workplace instructions a familiar statement always comes up when a person asks how they do the job of a security guard.

Security guards are to observe and report

This is the most common saying in the security industry and yet very few trainers include any time in the course to train students in the skills of observation or detection. The tired information regarding offenders descriptions is trotted out and all the students nod their heads at the valuable skills they are learning.

Observation skills

I have found that most training security courses don’t include practical sessions on testing the students observation skills by using a role play or simulated incident to put any learning into practice. Having worked with new security guards it become obvious that they did not know how to observe any of the following important factors

  • What direction did the offender go after the incident
  • Who was with the offender at the time before or after the incident
  • Did the vehicle front and back registration plates match
  • Were they right or left handed
  • Any signs of injuries
  • What type of tattoo was it, describe it
  • What type of camouflage pattern was the offender wearing

The military way to train

In the special force units they teach you observation skills that are almost photographic by the end of your training. This is done by repeated practical sessions and increased complexity with tests throughout to meet their standards.

Security guards need to have the same level of training if their job is mainly to observe and report incidents correctly.

As a trainer I use similar methods to train security guards and investigators to really be able to see all the evidence at a scene or be able to give a comprehensive witness statement report.

Photograph testing

By using a detailed photograph of several suspects I show the photographs in brief sequences. I then get the students to write suspect descriptions for all of them. This provides good training start for learning how to take note of details in a brief time period.

Incident report training

Next I take the students through a video of an incident or a role play simulation with the students required to observe and report all the details. This is done at least three times over the day. A good way to get them practiced in report writing and observation skills. Can be done in under 4 hours if necessary.

Crime scene awareness

Security guards and new investigators often get overwhelmed at their first crime scene in regards to what evidence is detected and what witness reports are important. To reduce the stress and reduce the potential mistakes from the effects of this stress when collecting details from a crime scene I put a crime scene together and run a training session that is realistic as possible to induce a level of stress and put their observation skills to the test.

All students are required to observe all the required evidence that has been placed in the crime scene.

Why these methods work

Students are practiced in several observation exercises throughout the course and tested on the results. This provides incentive and discipline in learning how to see details and report them correctly.

Because we place the evidence and control what the students observe it is easy for the trainers to notice if the security guard did or did not observe the details. In a real incident you will not be there to assess whether the security guard actually observed correctly all the details.


All security courses should include observation skill tests as part of the course to train new security guards in how to observe and report details by practice. Far too often the learning takes place on the job and mistakes mean the difference between reducing crime or not.

© Copyright 2008 by Paul Baker


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