The Wise Why

Episode #64

Episode #064

#Ep 64 | Ally Leonard The Grit Behind Security Guards

by | 22 Sep,2023

About This Episode

Ally Leonard talks with Kirsty van den Bulk on The Wise Why about the Grit Behind Door Security Guards and how the role is misunderstood.

With more than 20 years in the industry, Ally shares her inspiring journey from being a frontline security officer to becoming a senior consultant. Her insights into this vital industry are invaluable.

Key Points Discussed:

Ali’s Career Progression: From frontline work to leadership positions within top engineering firms.
Dispelling Misconceptions: Challenging the idea that security work is merely about standing around until an incident occurs.

Training & Certification: Understanding the rigorous training and certification required for security professionals.

Frontline Challenges: Addressing the multifaceted responsibilities and challenges faced on the frontline.

First Responder’s Role: Highlighting security officers’ critical role as emergency responders.

Violence Against Security Staff: Sharing personal accounts and advocating for recognition and protection.

Pay Discrepancies: Discuss the disparity between responsibilities and compensation in security roles.

Insights Shared:

Certification and background checks are crucial for ensuring industry standards are met.
Security professionals face underappreciation both financially and socially despite their critical roles.

Violence towards security staff is increasing and requires more recognition and protection.
There is an urgent need for better legal protection for security professionals.
Gender balance remains a challenge in the industry.

Conclusion: This episode illuminates the vital yet often overlooked work of security professionals like Ali Leonard, who advocate for recognition, fair compensation, improved legislation, and gender balance within the industry. We’d like you to join us for an insightful discussion on The Wise Why.

Episode #64 : Full Transcription
Kirsty van den Bulk
Hello and welcome to The Wise Why. Well this morning I am joined by one of the most, well, one of the strongest women I’ve ever met, and I met her very briefly at the security show, and it’s Allie Leonard. I was introduced to her by Haley Joseph and wow, her story is powerful. As usual, though, the wise why is not about me? It is about my guest. So Ally, please tell people what you do.

Ally Isom-Leonard
Good morning. Good morning, all or wherever you are. My name’s Ally Leonard. I currently am a senior security consultant at Bureau of Hold Bureau of hold is traditionally an engineering company, but I work in the specialist consulting team within the Security Division. We’ve got a team of about 2530 continuously growing right now. I’ve been in the security industry for. Over 20 years, much of that time. Earning my stripes as a frontline security officer, door supervisor and worked my way into directorships, owning companies, partnerships within companies, head, head of security sites to my current day role. As I sit today.

Kirsty van den Bulk
It’s it’s interesting cause people everybody has gone to a nightclub at some point or been to a bar. They’ve been to an event. And they see the people standing around the the peripherals. They’re wearing a vest, but they don’t really kind of notice what you do apart from when they come up against you because they’ve got too drunk or they’re being mouthy. I wonder if you could just explain a little bit about what it’s really like, but also the journey to becoming a frontline security officer because. I don’t think people realise. That you actually have to be certified or or trained.

Ally Isom-Leonard
Absolutely. And so I’ll answer the back end of your question first. So if I forget the front, then please remind me so since in the private Security Industry Act 2001 came into place and actually became legalised, sorry, put royal assent and that became law in 2003. So since 2003 you have needed to pass. A test, of course, with tests at the end, and that that course and that qualification has developed across the 20 as to where we. Today it used to be just a couple of days, but now we’re going across 6 days and now you also need from learnings of Manchester Arena inquiry. You also need your first aid at work as well. So for it could actually be a full 7 day course. Now I am an SI trainer myself. I do train both first aid. I train security and door supervisor courses as well. For the SN1, I’ve been doing this week and one thing I always say at the very very start and at the very end just remind those on the course. I always say to them, just remember you can’t walk off the street and become a security officer. You have to carry out. You have to come onto a course. This course for the learners that are on the course, I’d say because it’s a professional. It’s a professional career that you’re going into. Not only do you have to pass the course, you then have to apply for a licence just by passing the course doesn’t make you a security officer. You have to apply to the SIA to get your licence and they carry out rigorous cheques. Criminal cheques, mental health cheques, identity cheques, immigration cheques to make sure that you are fit and proper person in order to be within the industry now. It’s not quite as as stringent as a vet, a vetting system to compared to the police, for example, which can take a lot longer, which does does go a bit deeper into financial history and things like that, but it’s a very, very similar mirrored vetting process, which is why, you know, the the industries or both police officers. And security officers are do, do, do, align quite a lot, particularly at the front. One level you’re dealing with a lot of the same issues, and actually now the security officers, the door supervisors out there and the security industry as a whole are plugging the gaps where the police used to be. And I I say it used to be because they’ve had a significant reduction within their operation and now you see a lot more security officers doing St patrols. You have the business improvement districts throughout the UK, not just London, but absolutely throughout the UK. Who have? Security officers, door supervisors invests emblazoned with that with the with the bids, the Business Improvement District logo and they are walking the streets. They are now the bobby on the street. You know, if we use old terminology. So you know they they do work that in very, very close hand in hand and sometimes you may have a more experienced or supervisor or security officer attending an inside. And versus because we’ve got a massive police recruitment going on at the moment and you may have a police officer who still currently in probation because they can do, they can work and do their force at the same time, whereas you may have someone who’s been in the industry for 22 years, 30 years, 40 years, who, who who’s attending, who’s attending an incident and may have that. Knowledge and and we’ll advise the police of some and and. And it goes hand in hand. It does flip around all the other. So I’m now going to need to ask you the first part of the question, OK.

Kirsty van den Bulk
Was it was about people because when you go to an event and I probably got the questions because it was really interesting. You were just saying, but when you go to an event and you. See the security guard. You, you the. The the the people you know keeping. You safe people don’t realise actually some of the challenges you face and I wondered if you could. Expand because we, the normal, everyday person who doesn’t come up, who hasn’t got absolutely blind drunk, who hasn’t had a fight with their partner, who has. I don’t know. Try to smuggle something in. Doesn’t really see anything more than coming through the door. Have a door. Check. Show your pass thing. You go so we don’t really see that side of it. And I wondered if you could expand a little bit about the challenges that you actually. Have to deal.

Ally Isom-Leonard
With yeah, I mean as as a security event. At doors that were by doors that, I mean nightclubs and bars, pubs, you know, even your local Burger King now or McDonald’s has security at at these venues. So like most licenced premises now. I mean, I used to just work for a company. I was a director of a company and we used to provide. Slide door supervisors to Greggs up in Newcastle because they have a late night late night refreshment licence and they’re open till 4:00 AM so everyone who comes out of the clubs at silly o’clock in the morning and they go to gregs, obviously they’re gonna be in tops potentially being intoxicated and there’s the there’s the potential for conflict or worse. So as a security officer. Your supervisor. You deal with everything from. ID check searches you know to carry out a search or someone is that you know it’s it’s not you don’t you don’t necessarily want to touch someone or touch their bag or go through it. You’re not there to embarrass people. It is. It is there to keep you as in you the security officer, your colleagues, the staff members and also. The other guests and visitors safe as well as other members of the public who may be passing. It’s not there to, to. Be a bother. Ohh you know and and it but it becomes a little bit frustrating when people ohh, for God’s sake, I’ve gotta go through a search. Well, it’s there. It’s there to keep you safe. Someone’s written a risk assessment and deemed it deemed it necessary that due to the threat, the risk, the vulnerabilities or whatever it may be the audience profile. It’s not about stereotyping. It’s not about being prejudice. It’s about keeping everyone safe and that is the bottom line of it. And so carrying out search. It could be anything. I’ve lost my phone. Can you help me find my phone? I’ve lost my friends. Can you help me find my friends? You know, you become counsellors at times, cause you know whether someone’s had a an argument with their boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, mum, dad, daughters, whatever. So sometimes you are standing there and you are an ear to someone and you and I know that in the past. You know, a lot of people in the industry, do you, you sit and listen or you stand and listen because actually you’d rather than. Vent on you and let a bit of that steam out of the pot. Then carry on into your licenced premises or or event and let it out on someone else because they knocked them over and a little bit of their drink spills out of their glass. Or they step on their foot and they’re nice. New white trainers has now got a you know a a dirt mark on them. So you you, your councillors and you don’t even realise it at times. You are the first responder. Security officers are the first responder. We call 999 or someone else calls 999, but we are on site so generally we are the ones who will provide that initial first aid, which is why we are now if you, if you have an SIA licence, you must have as a minimum emergency first aid at work qualification because we we need to know what to do between that. What’s. You know that care gap between the incident occurring the emergency services are arriving so. We are that. We are the first responders who called the emergency. Services or or or a part of that you know whether weak or, as I say, someone else calls you know, sometimes you’re dealing with sexual assault victims, sometimes you’re dealing, you know, from minimal. When I say minimal, I mean in terms of the gravity of the of the offence, it could be groping, it could be word said to the. You know, absolute worst case. You know you could be dealing with rape victims. You could be dealing with someone who’s who’s been drugged unknowingly or knowingly. So they themselves have taken drugs, and now you’re dealing with a life or death situation. You can be dealing with assault. Again, when I say minimal, just a push, so not necessarily dealing with a physical injury, but you know if you’ve never been in a conflict situation before, particularly with members of someone who you don’t know and they’re shouting at you and then they push you, that can cause someone quite you know. Some people get shocked by that and free. So now you’re dealing with the shock as a medical issue. So you’re a medical practitioner at times, your account, you’re a therapy. Your police officer, your, your, your lost property, you’re lost and found. You’re finding these things. So there’s a multitude, boss. It’s security or door supervisor or bouncer or whatever you wanna call it. Actually, the job entails a multitude of tasks within, and I think that’s really misunderstood. There’s no one. No one calls for security. Sorry. No one likes security until they need security. And whether you’ve called us whatever name you called us last week or even on your way in, or you were rude. We said good morning. You just blanked us and walked. Though we still have to respond to you in a professional manner and in a courteous manner. And do our due. Duties as per our code of conduct that we signed up to with the SI. So you know we have to, we have to carry out our duties no matter what.

Kirsty van den Bulk
And it’s so well paid, right?

Ally Isom-Leonard
Live in my mansion right now. You know, as you go up the chain. You know, I I saw I see ads get my job, even though I’m very happy and comfortable with my job. You still from when you were applying for jobs like earlier on in life, you still get those emails come through. You know I saw. A security manager job, so someone who is going to be responsible for a team, they want you to write policies, they want you to write procedures, they want you to write the assignment instructions, do training, liaise with the client, do HR processes, all of that sort of stuff. £27,000 a year is what this company was offering, you know, for a security manager. Well, they want you to have X amount of years in the industry. They want you to have. One thing which you know, whilst the security industry you need is a professional industry because you need to have a qualification and pass pass the vetting as well. And then. There is a progression so you can do so. The entry level for most there’s close protection causes Level 3, but it’s a Level 2 qualification on the off coal scale. But you can go on and do Level 3 level 4, level 5. You can even go and do undergraduate degrees, postgraduate degrees, diplomas, whatever it is. May may be so there is a progressional path in terms of education and education is not for everyone to go and do MBQ’s you know the do a bit of learning and and and applying it to your work which does suit a lot more people. And you know when the same way that you would have to as a you know, a head of an accountant, you would want them to have a, a, an accountancy qualification as it were, as in a formal qualification. And I do find it astounding sometimes when they want a qualification, you know, a A level 5 or something or above course can cost over 1000 lbs. So do then only pay £27,000 with that requirement? I always find a bit odd because if you’re asking me to invest in myself or have invested in myself or you’re not gonna. You’re not gonna pay. Me back for it. And the frontline officers as well, I think national and I stand to be corrected, but I think it’s about 10:52 right now. And if you look. On job boards, unfortunately, there are a lot of frontline officers jobs out there being offered at 10:50 to £11.00 an hour. So very, very and it has historically always been very, very. To that to that minimum wage level, unfortunately.

Kirsty van den Bulk
And people don’t realise you actually get injured in the line of of of your day-to-day job, don’t you? So I worked in retail and I saw it first hand. Where you shoplifters and people who would come in intoxicated into the department store would kick off and then you would be in that situation. That you’re you’re trying to control somebody. And of course you get injured. I think you’ve been injured yourself.

Ally Isom-Leonard
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean I, I mean, it’s been a few years since I’ve worked online, but when I when I used to work the front line, I’ve been, I’ve been punched. I’ve been slapped, I’ve been kicked, I’ve been pinched and scratched. Unfortunately as well. I’ve been stabbed a couple of times as well. But for me, the worst was being spat at I. That is a bit, you know, that was. At times saw a little bit of a red mist at times, and I lose my cool 99.9 times out of 10 I I can. Retaliate in a non confrontational actually distract the person away from what they’ve said verbally or trying to do physically, but actually spitting for me is the worst of the worst. I feel it’s quite degrading and quite quite disrespectful, but you know I I’ve again. Violence in the security industry and towards security officers I don’t think gets enough, doesn’t get highlighted. Enough, and I think people, I know that people have tried to set up petitions to the government to get security officers recognised and to get the offences against security officers recognised similar to that, to emergency services, which I think are absolutely, should I know that again a company I used to work for? We had a a contract for a very well known lower end supermarket chain and one of our officers. He was and they were expected to stop a shoplifter, which he did. He stopped the shoplifter, but what he didn’t know was outside the shop because you have to go through a process. So you have to. You have to go through Scone, which is a scone. You see them approach, select the item. Them conceal the item, continue to observe them, watch them go through non payment and then exit the store so you’re not actually allowed to stop a shoplifter until point of exit till they’ve actually exited the store. They could still turn around and say no, I’m gonna go and pay for this. So they’ve got to wait until they walk out the store. So he did. He followed process to a tea. He stopped the. Stopped the guy outside the store. What he didn’t know was the guy had a friend with him who took the back end of a claw hammer and put it into his head, you know? And he was on because we were only being paid as a security company. I think at the time we were being paid 1020 or something per hour as the security company, we’ve gotta pay PAYE insurance. We’ve gotta recruit them. We’ve gotta train them. We’ve gotta put them in a uniform. We’ve got, you know, there’s a we’ve gotta go and visit them. We’ve gotta get reports to them. So there’s a cost to us. And at the end of the day, we’re in business and we need to make profit as well. So we could. Only pay national minimum wage in order to maintain that contract. So he got a claw hammer in the back of his. Head and he still. But unfortunately, it’s all disability benefit to this day because it has affected him not only physically, but mentally as well. The mental toil that security officers go through, I don’t think are is is appreciated. You know. You see I’m I’m of that age now where I listen to LBC in. The morning I’m a. I’m a radio shows are available. And and I was listening a couple of days ago, and apparently the head of Iceland has put out that violence towards retail staff has has is at its astronomical level. What the example I gave you about the claw hammer that was about eight years ago, nine years ago. So actually violence toward security officers or door supervisors has been there for a very, very long time. And now it’s starting to affect other people. Now it’s an issue, but actually it it should have always been an issue. It absolutely should always been an issue. You walk, you go on to train stations. TfL have got a great campaign for. Staff where they’ve got pictures of kids with the speech bubble, posters of kids with the speech bubble says. You know, my mummy came home and was crying last night because of the name you called her or my daddy doesn’t wanna go to work because of when you hit him. He doesn’t wanna go back to work anymore. I think that’s such a powerful and impactful and post it that they do. And I always stop to look at it and think. Yeah. Do you know what you know, even at the end of the day, it’s a human being. You take off the tie, you take off the uniform, the fleece with whomever it is, whether it’s a retail worker, security worker, police officer, whoever it may be. It’s a human being. At the end of the day and would you want your mum, dad, brother, sister, cousin or uncle, whomever it may be? Wife, daughter. Husband. Would you want them treated like that? Because I would, you know. And you go back to it’s that it’s that self respect that your own morals and your values as well as to how you treat someone. Yes. You can be frustrated and. We were all human. We all have buttons but. It’s not that person’s fault, you know that you can’t come in because you’re not. You’re not wearing the right dress code, or because your tickets not scanning properly. That’s not that person’s fault, but they may be the barrier at that point in time, but it’s not that person’s fault. They are following policy. They are following procedure. I mean I’ll. I’ll go. In a small tangent here, so feel free to bring me back in I.

Kirsty van den Bulk
Think it’s OK? No, it’s good. I did say to you before in the studio that we don’t talk and we don’t realise you’re kind of like the the the invisible barrier that nobody. Because when people think about security they think about. Well, CCTV, they think about access control. They think about lots of different things, but they don’t necessarily think about the person who is standing when they go into the shop. They don’t necessarily think about the person when they go through into a museum and why they are checking the bag and we’re hey, we’ve got embarrassed because I’ve got a. Packet of tampax. Because it’s the time of the month. You know, that’s what we’re thinking about rather than actually this person is checking my bag because and. And I I remember this being told to me by a doorman in Glasgow very many, many years ago. Because I couldn’t understand why he was checking me and not my husband. Now it’s a different husband to who I have now, but I remember thinking, why are you checking me? And he said it was because the women brought in the knives.

Ally Isom-Leonard
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, the people unfortunately, you know, we you you write what you write as your career and your job title and your CV. I write what I write on. Fine, a criminal or right criminal. You know, if if they were being honest, they’d write professional, criminal be. We know just through. If you look at the cyber world, we know that this as soon as you you update your antivirus is already out of date because the criminal has has revised its its way through people are getting and you just need to look at knife. From throughout London, you know, you could say the UK, but very. And it’s it’s getting worse and worse and worse and. These kids and they are kids, they’re finding more and more ways and more to to hide these knives and or bladed items. You know, we a few years ago we had a we had a I I had a I was head of security at the site in in southeast London and we were talking with the police and we’re talking about sharing intelligence and I said. You know, actually I’ve seen because I follow. I’ve, you know, I keep on in try and keep in touch with the local gang units and just the general intelligence or sort of that sort of world. And, you know, they’re walking with crutches. To create a limp to give the impression of a limp because they’ve got a machete down their leg which is impacting their gait and they can’t bend their leg properly. So it used to be that they used to get picked up on the street because they’re not walking properly cause it’s obvious that there’s an issue with their with their gait by gait I. Mean Gai. T yeah. So if they walk around with crutches. There’s an excuse as to why their gait’s been impacted so and then when they find the person they wanna do whatever to. Crosses go out the way. Pull out the knife and they do what they do so you know they that’s, you know, that’s an 11-year-old, a 17-year-old who’s thinking of these things or have been told these things to implement. So we have to continuously keep in touch with the local intelligence with the national intelligence, with the international intelligence, because all it takes is one person. With the likes of social media these days, you know, and not only social media like I use social media, I’m I’m sure in fact I know you use social media as well, you know and I thought I put well my gym photos on my social media whereas other people will put techniques on and it will that will last 10 hours, 12 hours, one hour. 24 hours in order to put techniques of to how to overcome something I see on Instagram little videos every now and again. Ohh get get this bottle of vodka into the your next festival and it’s your hair brush that you undo the handle and you the hair brush isn’t actually a hair brush. It’s the it’s the canisters. So you then screw it through or you too. You know, again, it’s very much female orientated. You tuck like IV style bags into your bra or you hold them in between your thighs or strap them into your thighs because they’re not gonna search you there or because unfortunately females in the security industry are almost like gold dust, very much doors.

Kirsty van den Bulk
Yeah, I’m. I’m glad you meant. I’m really glad you’ve mentioned that. Cause. Yes, females, particularly in the on on the door, but females in the security market and I know we’ve got a comment from Hayley here, but females in the security market are really they’re thin on the ground and and what they.

Ally Isom-Leonard
They are the. It’s getting better. It is getting better 100%, it’s getting better, but we’ve still got a long way to go and and you know we do when you do, when you do searching as in a a pat down search and I always whenever I teach I will say use the back of your hands protect yourself because we’re in a claim society now. So I don’t want an officer who I’ve talked to. Do it that way because just going up to someone that way could be quite intimidating if you use the back of your hand, you can still feel exactly the same, but it’s less intimidating and there’s no less likelihood chance that you’re gonna be called out for an assault. So also as well. So if you’re doing what we call the traditional pat down searches. A man can’t do it to a a woman, so that’s why they hide it on the women. And even if he won through, if you’re looking for that, you know, if you’re looking for drugs, it’s not gonna go. It’s not gonna go through a metal detector. If you’re looking. If people are bringing in additional alcohol, it’s not gonna go through a metal detector. And if women are hiding things in their hair because a lot of security officers unfortunately either. Say not that’s wrong with me to sell because I’m stereotyping it. There are some security officers who who lose interest. Or are there just to put as as there is in any industry in this world there to punch in, punch out, just to claim that they don’t have the pride in their work. So they won’t scan properly. So people are still able or if they scan over the belt it will beep. Oh, it’s just my belt. I’ll I’ll say, do you mind taking your belt off for me? Because there are belt buckles now which you can convert which flick out and they you get a you can get a lock knife in them. Again, these are all things that are. Advertised on social media. Hairbrushes where the handle. Is a knife. When you put it into the actual hair brush head, as it were. So there’s a lot of way as I say, the sophistication of the criminal world is getting, you know, it’s getting more and more. They’re advertising it as handy knife or when you go camping, when if you’re going camping, you’ll just take it off with you because you can carry around, you know, a a knife that’s three inches or less. As long as there’s not a a lock knife and you’ve got a reasonable course to do it, if you’ve got stocked with a tent and a sleeping bag and your family or just on yourself, I’m going camping, a police officer. Say thank you very much. Enjoy. Enjoy. Your trip, but you so you wouldn’t have to hide it in your belt or your or or your hair brush or anything like that. So these are these are mischievous and malicious techniques in order to cause harm to you and or to us, which is why we have such techniques in place, which is why sometimes if something we don’t feel something right, we ask you to come to the side and we’ll do a little bit more of a thorough check. Yeah. We might ask you to we don’t touch things, so we’ll ask you to take your stuff out your bag. We don’t touch things for two reasons. A to. Protect ourselves in two ways. One, because we don’t know what you’ve got stored in your bag. So if we put our hands in, we can get needles and knives at all sorts of razor blades and #2. If we find something on toward, you could say, well, you put that in there. You put that in there. I didn’t. That wasn’t in there. So we asked you to empty your bag. We we’ll then look at an empty bag and then we’ll have a look through and and have a, you know. And This is why we’ll ask you to empty your pockets. We’ve got to stick our hand into our pocket. We’re protecting ourselves. So it’s an inconvenience for you. For the sake of all of us. Alright, it’s a minute of your life that you might have lost and been inconvenienced. But I’ll tell you what, being being stabbed or dealing with an overdose or you getting you getting spiky with your drink because someone’s been able to bring GHB or a hip Nolin or something, worse ketamine or something like that, that’s a bigger inconvenience than the one minute for for of search.

Kirsty van den Bulk
And and and those things, some of the things you’ve just mentioned, when I was younger happened to me. You know, I’ve been spiked and I had no idea I’ve been spiked. And it was a security door person who looked after me whilst I was. I was completely I, I mean, yeah, I was irrational. I was. Well, I was. I was also quite paranoid and a little bit violent. Not because I meant to be, but because I’ve been spiked. And thankfully the door person recognised it and it’s not something I thought I’d be talking about, but some of the things that I went through when I was younger, if it wasn’t for and I’ve just sat here listening, going. Oh my goodness. The amount of times the security door people helped me when I was in my early 20s and saying even at points saved my life. So I’m gonna just say thank you to whoever you were that I was a little bit rude to a few times. I didn’t mean to be because I remember 1. Time going back. To a place I’ve never been. I’ve never been in there as far as I remembered and and I the door said you can’t come in here. You, you, your, your, your reliability. And I went. I’ve never been here and he went. You were here last week. I went. No, no, no, I wasn’t here. And we had a conversation. It turned out I’d been definitely had something. So the, I mean, we are talking about in the early 2000s where we having GHB put into a drink was quite normal. Thankfully, I was safe every single time. But wow, you know, I don’t mean it. I should have said that it was quite normal. That’s. A really bad point.

Ally Isom-Leonard
No, but it was it was it. Was prevalent and actually we as society didn’t have. I mean I myself very, very early on at university, my my drink got spiked on the one of the few occasions when. When I was going out and unfortunately I became the victim of quite serious sexual assault, had thankfully to this day, I have no memory of it. It’s only because I woke up the next morning and didn’t have any underwear on, which is not necessarily unlike me, because sometimes when when I’m having when I’ve had a few too many Pepsi colas, you know I can’t be bothered. You can’t bother to put that back on your feet. Trousers back on. You put your shirt back on and and that was. That, but and it’s actually one of the reasons why I was sort of in the security career or any in the security industry anyway. But it’s my undergraduate degree is effectively by medical sports science and and I thought actually I don’t want to do that. I tried it out for a little bit and I thought I want to carry on in my security policing career because this is. I wanna. I wanna. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through cause it absolutely it took me to my lowest point in life and I wanted to make the world a better place. And I didn’t want anyone to go through what I had to go through. So it’s one of those. It’s one of those things where it’s you take a, you take a really crap situation. You try and put a positive spin on it for for you and for for for other people in in life, you know, I went on and did masters at Loughborough in Security Management, currently doing my International Security risk management with. University of London. I’ve got, you know, I’ve been director of security companies. I’ve worked. With police forces given my my, my experience as to how the police let me down, the police had let me down because again, sexual assault was quite new in terms of, yeah, had it quite locked down quite well with sapphire, but the I went to the university. In Wales, unfortunately, South Wales Police didn’t have that set up. They do now. They have a great setup now, but absolutely everything can continue to be improved and it’s only unfortunately through your experience, through my experience, we have to go through that so that we have the have the improvements are in place today. You know, you can naturally now you can go up to. Your bar and you could say, have you got a cover that I could put over my glass and they will give you one and your straw sticks out of it.

Ally Isom-Leonard
You can have caps that you put on your bottle, but we had to go through what we needed to go through for that to be in place. And so that that, that. To be normal when.

Kirsty van den Bulk
And I can remember. Ten years later, my cousins. Funny enough in Wales, posting pictures on social media of this cap with a straw and then going out. But of course we we did we we went through. This really I’m I was lucky. Unlike you, I I didn’t get any sexual abuse. But thank you for sharing that because you know it and and with the reason why you’re in the security market because that’s really powerful. It’s saves me asking why you would do it. So thank you for answering the question without me answering it. I’m going to go quickly to the. What has been saying because of? Haley is another lady in security and you wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t stopped you so high. 5 hating for your sector. Ally, I’ve been been protected during a messy marriage by a stranger, a doorman. And he ensured it got home safe. And who knows how different things could have panned out without that intervention. Hayley and I will.

Ally Isom-Leonard
Like really?

Kirsty van den Bulk
Absolute say I’ve been there, but yes, thank you for putting up there high 5 valley for advocating here sector during Ohh. Repeating it but yes, absolutely. And I don’t think that you we hadn’t talked about it but domestic arguments. Happen and it is the doorman who is there. The door person. So I should say doorman. That’s very 80s. The door person is there and it’s that person who gets you safe. So you know what you do. And there’s no, I’m just gonna touch on it very quickly cause I’m talking. For half an hour. But there’s no sick pay, is there?

Ally Isom-Leonard
There’s you get statute, like statutory sick pay. Again, the girl you know it’s it’s not a it’s not. It’s not a standard income protection. It’s not a standard health insurance. It’s not a standard death in service. It’s not a standard. These should be things that you get as standard as a security officer working for a frontline. And it’s not, unfortunately, there are companies. I’m not saying there aren’t companies who don’t do it. There are companies who go out there and do it. But, you know, unfortunately because of the pay to security companies from buyers and it’s it, it got it did improve. Move, but unfortunately now we’re we’re, you know, finances are getting tighter. The first thing to get cut is security. It is always the first thing to get cut until something goes wrong, something goes wrong and then the security goes up. We’re very reactive and there’s very few company. There are companies out there. There are events out there. Of course there are who are proactive and who. Have a very, very strong security cult. Yeah, but you have a CFO, you have a CEO, you have Co you may. You may have a C ISO, but you very rarely have someone on the board who is a security representative. Security often, and this is absolutely no disrespect to to the to FM managers, but security, particularly with buildings often sit under. An FN manager, now you. And I can assure you my my ex and and my current family and stuff like that can can access this. I am a security expert. I’m not a cleaning expert. I’m not a lift expert. OK, you can’t be a Jack of all a master of none. As for what is effectively life saving and life assuring services, security is one of those. As I say, we are the first responders, so you can’t just have a ohh just go and do the SI course and you’re OK. If you’re managing something, you should have the appropriate. Experience and you should have further than just that entry level experience. You should have further qualifications which cement your knowledge, your experience, your you know your attributes in the industry so that you a show that you this is an industry for you and you’ve you’ve you’ve invested in stuff and say. Doesn’t you? CPD is free. You can read. You can read stuff. There are lots of free courses online and in person as well. So it’s not just physically about investing financially, investing time. You know, time is is the most valuable thing in the world. So if you are showing you’re investing your your time into your career, it shows that you’re serious about it. But I I’m no good at cleaning. I couldn’t tell you what’s what type of cleaning thing to use on wood other than on Mr Sheen maybe, but that’s not something to do in the commercial setting cause it’s too expensive. So. You know, so I’m not an expert in cleaning so, and I’m not an expert in. Lift management because. I’ve known nothing about lifts. I’m not an expert about, you know, how to fix a door. Cause I’m not that. So to to to put all of these things under one person, you know they’re gonna be good on maybe certain areas and laxing than another. And I’m not saying one’s more important than the other, not in any way, shape or form, but you very rarely have security representatives at senior management or board levels with companies. And I think that’s, I think that’s a travesty. I’m honest with you because security is such an important factor and it’s always until when it goes wrong. Well, then we think about it. Look at the reports. Why wasn’t this reported? Well, if you’re looking at your reports on a regular on a regular basis, I like to deal with molehills. I don’t like to deal with mountains, so I wanna know when something goes wrong at at the first point and then if it goes again on the second point. I know I’ve got a trend, so I’ve gotta I’ve gotta deal with it. But when often after, after major. It’s it’s a major or not even major incidents. Generally there’s been a there’s been a pattern before. The hand and it’s only picked that pattern only picked up after the after the fact or after the event or after the incident. And it’s it’s such a travesty cause we’ve all you know, it’s and it’s wonderful hindsights and wonderful thing, but we can be proactive and we can stop these things and if you can, you know, I can honestly put my hand on my heart and put my head on my pillow at night and say. I always do in the operational field. From supervisors, team leaders management directorship, I’ve always done the best that I could do and I’ve done everything I can, you know, getting calls at 2:00 in the morning because there’s been a stabbing on site. OK, this is what I want you to do. XYZ I get in my car and I drive to the site because I’m I need to be there. Cause if I’m asking my officers to deal with it, I need to deal with it as well. You know, and I need to be there to support my officers, cause to see someone stabbed. Is it mentally is is is a. Is not great to see someone attempt suicide by jumping in the Thames or jumping off a railway bridge. It’s not to talk them down. You have to provide that support and that wrap around for your staff and. A lot of companies, a lot of people that don’t necessarily do that. And if you haven’t experienced it yourself, if you’ve not gone through it yourself, you wouldn’t have that empathy and that. That understanding and needs of why that’s important to support your officers in that way and you know, I I’m I’ve you’ve put it on the. I’m the buyer, but you know I’m. I’m sit on the Advisory Board. So if so and they have a fantastic mental health first aid module for security officers. So you know, and it’s also for managers as well. So that if you’re not necessarily understanding of the security industry, you can do this module and you can do the mental health training to understand what it is your office. Go through, you know, to hear someone, talk to them about being a victim of domestic violence or to to hear that they’ve been sexually assaulted or, you know. That that takes that takes. A toll and you take that home with you and then you’ve got to go and put a smile on your face to your family and be nice to your wife and your kids. And it gives you a better or or your husband. Or or or and or your boyfriend or whoever it may be, and you’ve gotta put that smile on your face and carry on and. Actually, who’s there for you? Who’s who’s your security? You know, because it’s not. You know, it’s it’s an under. It’s a really underappreciated. We’re making a song and dance now about violence in retail shops. It’s been there for years. Absolutely. There for years. It’s only now because it’s affecting everyone else. But it was OK when they were kicking. That’s cute. So it was OK when they were stabbing the security officer. That was OK because he signed up for that. She signed up for it, so that’s OK. But now it’s affecting the shop staff. It’s an issue.

Kirsty van den Bulk
But it was the we’ll. We’ll, we’ll finish on this note and normally do a question to me, but I think this is a this is far more interesting. So this violence towards security officers. Happening in the 80s, I was working on the shop floor. I’ve worked in retail since 19, well since I was 13. So and I my first job was working for a retired police officer. Then I ended up in a in another small shop and then I went to large department stores and they had a dedicated security team back in those days. And those that team and I could call the people out because some of them are still, I’m still in touch with today. They were dealing with serious. That’s way back and and it’s not something that’s ever talked about. And you know I I think there were officers that been assaulted and they were off work. And the other thing was that the security officers weren’t just attacked in the workplace, they were attacked in their personal life because people and and, you know as well. Want your your. Opinion on this quickly and then then we’ll finish. But I think it’s important to realise. That your job doesn’t stop when you go home.

Ally Isom-Leonard
Absolutely not you what you experience and what you deal with on the night, on the day, whatever it may be. You know, you’ve gotta. I’ve dealt with stuff where someones crack been punched, cracked their head open, literally. And I’ve held their eyeball in their face because because they the impact on the floor and cracked their cheekbone. I was covered in their blood. I’ve gotta go home and take that shirt off. I’ve gotta take that. Put that shirt in the washing machine. You know, when that shirt comes out? The washing machine. I’m gonna remember it now. It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t. Ohh right. Badge badge comes off my arm. I’ll take the lanyard off. Thanks very much guys. But. And I’m happy. No, you’d carry that home. So the wrap around for security officers. Hasn’t historically been there. It’s getting better. It is getting better, but still again a lot more needs to be done. The appreciation for security officers, there is a security Officer Appreciation Day falling off. It’s 24/7 24th of July every year. But to be honest with you, I think every day should be security Officer Appreciation day be, you know, just little things. We appreciate just say good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Have a good day. Have a good evening to your security officer because they’ve got to stand there. Sit there for 8 hours, 12 hours, 14 hours at times. Sometimes they’re doing double shifts because they work one job and they work another job, you know, because they’re not paid enough to just have a lifestyle. And so, you know, appreciate appreciate your security officers.

Kirsty van den Bulk
We’ll, we’ll finish on that note. Thank you so much for a really insightful look into what it is to be a front line security officer. I really appreciate your time.

Ally Isom-Leonard
No problem at all. First, it’s really good. I appreciate you inviting me.

Kirsty van den Bulk
Just trying to find my mouse now. Thank you so much. No problem.

Ally Isom-Leonard
Thank you.

00:00 – Introduction to Wise Why
01:10 – Ally Leonard
02:45 – Training and certification
04:30 – The role of frontline security
06:50 – Importance of professional handling
11:20 – Adapting to evolving criminal tactics
13:05 – Consequences of inadequate checks
14:50 – The danger of disguised items
16:30 – Effective search techniques
18.10 – Personal anecdotes
19.55 – Drink-spiking
21.25 – Lack of representation
23.00 – First responder
24.40 – Improving mental health support
26.15 – Emotional toll on officers after hours
27.50 – Call-to-action
29.00 – Conclusion

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