Project Griffin – Can It Deliver In Australia?

Police line do not cross imageFor some time, there has been discussion about private security taking a more active role in the response to emergency and disaster events. Much of this discussion has been centred around how this might happen, if it is necessary and where in the hierarchy or emergency response command security might sit. However, to some limited extent, we can already see instances where private security and emergency services might work together to respond to an emergency and the value that appropriately trained private security personnel can be in such incidents – one such example being Project Griffin.

Project Griffin, originally developed as a joint venture between the City of London and Metropolitan Police Forces, was first introduced in April 2004 to London’s financial and central business districts to help them better protect themselves against terrorist threats and crime.

The principle aims of the program were to:

  • Raise awareness of current terrorist and crime issues
  • Share and gather intelligence and information
  • Build and maintain effective working relationships
  • Seek solutions to defeating terrorism and crime
  • Maintain trust and confidence in the Police and other authorities
  • Empower people to report suspicious activity and behavior

This program also helped bring together police, fire brigade, ambulance services, private security and other government agencies in deterring and disrupting terrorist or extremist activities, and support each organisation’s operation with local information and resources during major emergencies.

The one day course that is associated with the program teaches participants various skills including: explosives and threat identification, crime scene preservation, bomb threat management, CBRN management, conflict resolution, reconnaissance, cordon management, crime reduction strategy and legal matters. Participants who finish the course are then presented with a certificate and their name entered into a Police register in case of this deployment at a
major incident.

Since its original rollout in London over seven years ago, its outstanding success has encouraged police forces, businesses and security services across the UK and in many other countries including Canada, Singapore, South Africa, the United States, New Zealand and Australia to adopt the program.

In late 2005, Victoria Police saw the potential value of this project as a way of further educating security officers engaged for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006.

A Victoria Police delegation from the Police/ Security partnership committee ‘PolSec’ evaluated the project and reported back to the committee the great potential value Project Griffin could offer to the many ongoing events and activities held in the state each year. From this report, a Licensing Agreement was drafted with the City of London and Metropolitan Police Forces to allow the Victoria Police Counter Terrorism Unit to utilise the program, and the first Train-the-Trainer workshop with Security Industry Trainers was held at the Victoria Police Academy on 24 May 2006 (albeit a bit late for, Commonwealth Games).

To ensure this was not another money making opportunity for the security industry trainers, it was agreed that all Project Griffin training would be delivered to students on a cost recovery basis only, or between $50- $100.00 per student.

During the following months, thousands of Security Officers undertook the training, which was delivered by the industry, and students proudly received their participation certificates from the Victoria Police.

However, by early 2007, Victoria Police shifted their business imperatives, operational focus and the champions of the Project Griffin cause to other tasks and projects. The Police Counter Terrorism Unit were overwhelmed with Certificate applications they could not process because of staff resource levels, the Security Licensing Service Division believed they should manage it as a licensing function and eventually Griffin was dead in Victoria.

Therefore, the question remains – is Project Griffin a worthwhile initiative? Can it deliver on its intended purpose?  Did those issued certificates provide security officers the level of engagement and recognition they were told it would?

The Private Security Industry believes Project Griffin can deliver, and at no real cost to Police or state governments. The security industry in Victoria has already shown its commitment to this project and openly embraces any opportunity to better educate its front line personnel to be more robustly and appropriately engaged in helping prevent andrespond to major incidents.

However, this reengagement comes with a caveat– unless the government and police give full commitment to allocating appropriate funds and resources to ensure it is a long term success, then it could be reasonable to suggest the security industry would not want to invest more time and money into a project that provides no additional operational benefits, return or level of engagement.

Whether it is helping to deter or disrupt terrorist or extremist activities, reduce crime or assist emergency services during an emergency or the disaster, the private security industry in Australia has more trained and licensed officers than all the Australian police and military forces combined.

Security is already protecting over 90 per cent  of Australia’s critical and important infrastructure and plays a critical daily
role at our shipping and aviation ports, shopping centers, entertainment and sporting venues and within our workplaces and homes.

Project Griffin is a training and engagement tool, Police and governments could be utilising with the private security industry to deliver safer communities.  No longer can Police and other Government agencies expect to do all the bullock work alone without something eventually
going snap.

Private security officers are not emergency responders or counter-terrorist combatants – but they are on the front line. Therefore, it makes good sense to utilise their observations, skills and local knowledge in a trained and coordinated manner.

There is no reason not to believe that Project Griffin has the potential to deliver. It simply needs the powers that be to get behind it.

Brett McCall
Brett McCall worked in a major commercial TV newsroom for 10 years before becoming a Security Professional in 1990. Brett now owns and operates a nationally licensed security firm providing physical and technical security solutions. He also operates an approved security industry training business. Brett is a key member and committee executive of many security industry associations including; Vice President VSI, Chairman Protective Services Committee – Victorian (Police Ministers) Security Industry Advisory Council and a founding member of the ACSP.