SLED Advisory Council Submission 5 June 2014
The below is a copy of a paper submitted by Daniel Lewkovitz to the SLED Advisory Council in 2014. It is archived here for posterity.
It is important to note that this paper was intended for a security industry working group and regulatory body. Given the audience, the intent of this paper was not to discuss firearms ownership in general (a sensitive, often emotionally laden topic). Rather to address the legitimate use of force by professional security officers.
SLED Advisory Council meeting 5 June - Agenda Paper
The de-facto abolition of defensive weapons and armour has increased security officers' exposure
to preventable danger and potentially empowered the criminal element.
Security and Law-enforcement have traditionally carried a variety of 'use of force' options as
personal protective equipment (PPE). These include impact weapons (batons) and firearms.
Additionally, security officers relied upon passive protective systems such as body armour (bullet
and/or stab resistant) as well as handcuffs. Although not 'weapons' per se, these items have been
included as prohibited weapons in legislation and were managed through the Weapons Prohibition
Act, administered by the Firearms Registry.
In 2004 a variety of new legislation and controls was introduced with an intention to reduce the
number of firearms within the Security Industry and prevent them being obtained by criminals e.g
via gun theft. This was a reaction to an incident of theft of a quantity of firearms from a Western
Sydney security business. Many of these new controls were not codified within legislation but were
administered by the Firearms Registry as policy. For example a requirement for the Firearms
Registry to review 'risk assessments' prior to issuing permits for armed work, often on a case-bycase
basis, to companies that were already otherwise licensed.
A related change in 2007 was the introduction of the Provisional 1F licence (P1F) along with other
provisional security licences. The P1F required aspiring armed guards to be 'trained' and
'supervised' only by an "approved" firearms employer. The legislation specifically limited this to
persons employed in the uniformed Cash in Transit ("CIT") sector of the industry by approved CIT
providers. The list of approved CIT employers was confined to 3, being major and/or multinational
cash in-transit companies.
It is the author's opinion that the drafting was discriminatory against
small business, including both covert armed companies and armed companies involved in a variety
of legitimate non cash-in transit protective duties. These companies were effectively prevented
entirely from hiring new staff to replace those leaving. As a result, a number of armed security
businesses have been forced out of this work, being punished despite never suffering a loss or
breach or having done anything wrong.
It should be noted that the introduction of a P1F licence was in fact a late concession as the
original intention was to have no entrance pathway for armed candidates. That is, there was an
apparent intention to deprive the armed security sector of 'oxygen'.
In 2011 the Provisional Licensing scheme was roundly acknowledged as a failure, and
subsequently scrapped in November 2012. Coincidental with the removal of the P1F licence from
the Security Industry Act however was the introduction of "Provisional pistol
(business/employment) licences" within the Firearms Act. That is, while the security industry
regulator (SIR, then SLED) had no further participation in the provisional licensing debacle, the
Firearms Registry had introduced its own provisional licensing scheme. Once again, the
requirements for provisional licensees to work for an "approved master licensee" means that all but
a tiny handful of NSW security businesses are denied the right to hire and train new candidates.
The current situation is in stark contrast to the Government's policy to "increase employment
participation" and is anti-competitive. Of greater concern, however, is the effect this has had on the
number of armed officers and the protection of NSW assets. The armed security sector has been
Armed guards have become a commodity and there is practically no 'new talent'
coming into the sector (save for the 'approved master licensees'). This is going to have a long-term
negative effect on the protection of NSW critical infrastructure and high-value assets, as well as
The criminal element has taken advantage of this exposure.
For example, the NSW Firearms Registry has previously published on its website advice that:
"Firearms will not be authorised for the guarding of licensed premises under any circumstances."
This sent the message that criminals may rob such premises (bottle shops, registered clubs) in the
knowledge that any security officer they confront, will not be armed.
Similarly, the Firearms Registry has also stated that: "Generally, mobile patrolling and responding
to alarms are not functions that would justify the possession and use of firearms". As a
consequence, burglars know that they can rob alarmed and monitored premises with impunity
(Police will generally not respond) and security guards' lives are placed in danger as they respond
to potential crimes in-progress with no means to defend themselves against criminals.
Alternatively, they respond in such a manner to allow criminals to escape unchallenged. Once
again, criminals have learnt where and when they will get away (and get away with it) every time.
The 'risk assessment' process instituted by the Firearms Registry remains both costly and
problematic as it requires disclosure of highly sensitive material to Firearms Registry staff as well
as review of security industry activities case-by-case by people who are not familiar with security
industry operations. This requirement also discriminates against some security providers who are
expected to request permission to conduct their business on a job-by-job basis and other providers
who are not subject to these restrictions. It has been the case that such 'permission' would arrive
after the conclusion of an event to which it related. While there is no significant evidence that
remaining armed security companies are acting in an irresponsible or illegitimate manner, they are
effectively being punished or put out of business.
Should there be a requirement in future to provide a higher level of security to key NSW assets, or
further a police-security partnership - and this is extremely likely - there will simply be too few
armed officers to participate. Were the problematic legislation turned-over, it would still take
several years to create the depth-of-experience in new candidates. The situation needs to be fixed
urgently as the results of such repair will take considerable time to bear fruit.
Security Officer safety has been progressively eroded over several years. It is already difficult to
attract sensible people to the Security Industry as they feel they will be exposed to violence (often
for minimal pay) with no means to defend themselves. Due to uncertainty caused by Firearms
Registry correspondence to licensees and vendors some years ago, there is continuing confusion
within industry over regulation concerning batons. Many equipment companies are scared to sell
them (despite no specific change in legislation) and security providers are reluctant to issue them
for similar reasons, despite security officer pleas for their carriage.
Crowd controllers are also restricted from carrying handcuffs, an effective means of restraining a
combative individual. Ironically, there is ongoing concern about 'positional asphyxia' yet if a
security officer cannot handcuff a person, there are limited other safe options for restraint and a
higher likelihood of potentially more dangerous physical restraint techniques.
Body armour, a lifesaving
tool, has generally been limited to all but cash in-transit providers.
It should be clear that the intention of this discussion paper is not to spontaneously arm the wider
population. However, if it is to be accepted that security officers perform essential work in a
privileged yet dangerous environment, it must be recognised that they require the tools with which
to do so effectively and safely.
1) That potentially anti-competitive and restrictive security/firearms licensing requirements be
reviewed and abolished.
2) That support is given to the proper deployment of 'use of force options' within the security
industry for both officer and public safety protection, in conjunction with effective training.
3) That the appropriateness of the Firearms Registry, rather than the SLED, regulating the armed
security industry sector be reviewed.
27 May 2014