Private security guards carrying metal detectors in their hands can be seen standing at the entry points of different public and private buildings. But who knows if the gadgets they are brandishing with an attitude to match are functional at all.
The hand-held security equipment, according to experts, is of great importance; greater perhaps than the walkthrus in the sense that it allows lesser space between the person who is being frisked and the checking device. This also means you can not only check the body of the person but also have an eye on his/her body language.
The question is, if these metal detectors do the needful and the security guards who use them are trained well to use them.
It is common experience that the detectors often do not beep where they ought to — when they sense something metallic in your bag or pocket or on your clothes items such as your shirt buttons, jeans’ belt and so on. In a country like Pakistan where the law and order situation is usually not good, this silence of the beepers is criminal, to say the least.
Similarly, the way the guards use their security apparatus gives the impression that they are completely indifferent or they do not trust it to deliver.
Talking to TNS, a security guard at a local bank says, “The policemen visit us daily. If I don’t have the detector in my hand, they’d question me. But no one wants to confirm if the device is working properly or not.”
Major (retd) Amer Ali of Askari Guards is of the view that a metal detector ensures a thorough physical search of a person and detects whatever you are carrying. “It requires proper training before the guard can use it to its advantage. Otherwise it won’t respond in time, which may have disastrous results.”
He asserts that the effectiveness of a simple metal detector depends on its scanners and batteries. “The greater the number of scanners in a metal detector, the better use it will be of.
“A high-end device shall have a durable battery,” he adds. “In other case, you shall need to recharge the device over and over. In many cases, it has been observed that the metal detector did not beep because it wasn’t fully charged or the guard was fed up of charging the battery many times in a day.”
Maj (r) Amer Ali believes it is imperative that the security guard lets the detector come into contact with the body of the person being frisked, in order to ensure thorough checking. “The person must be asked to raise his hands before applying the device on his body. Unfortunately, this practice is rarely followed either because of the guard’s lethargy or his fear of being scolded by the person.”
A security equipment dealer on Hall Road, Ahmad Khalil says that most metal detectors are imported from China. “The price of these ranges between Rs1,200 and Rs5,000. The price goes up as the number of features increases.
“Most school owners buy cheap metal detectors that do not quite serve the purpose and are just eyewash,” he says.
According to Khalil, both the school owners and the traders are making money in the name of security. “The schools charge a security fee from the students and the traders sell cheaper devices at high rates.”
A Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) spokesman says the police has Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place for private security guards. “If a security guard or an agency does not follow the SOPs, due action is taken against them. Their licenses are revoked, and FIRs are lodged against them.”
The spokesman talks of “dozens of FIRs [that] have been registered against private guards who were doing their job with failed devices.”
An area SHO or beat officer is supposed to implement the SOPs according to which a guard must be healthy and trained well. Besides, his full bio-data should be available to the department concerned. Checking devices such as metal detectors, guns, and walkthru gates should be functional.