An Open Letter by Johnny Boykins, Operations Manager – Florida
During Black History Month, I enjoy reading articles and reviews on how far we've come in society, but this past year was a little bit different. For nearly a year, we've been operating under pandemic conditions which have certainly added stress and anxiety to an already tough, but at times rewarding, job. We watched the protest for racial justice and Black Lives cascade across the country in the summer of 2020. I know many of us were on the front-lines doing our work to secure facilities and make extra patrols in impacted areas. Many of us have sheltered-in-place during weather-related emergencies, away from our own families, to continue the mission of safety and security. We are often on the front-line in these divided times; whether it's enforcing mask orders or responding to civil disturbances, our work matters. We must continue to push our organization to embrace diversity in all ranks, whether it be field, management or executive leadership.
Diversity in our industry has never been more critical, particularly in these divided times. Diversity affords us the ability to call upon the team's emotional and cultural intelligence and the experience we bring from the community. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed new light on the essential work we all do. At the beginning of the pandemic, we all had to adapt and overcome. The security professional's role is to project calm when there is chaos, direction when there is confusion, and order when there is disorder. The pandemic has revealed the best and worst. We've witnessed the best in modern medicine and the most grueling losses that any of us could have imagined for those working in healthcare security. We've comforted loved ones in the parking lot because no visitors were allowed, and we've successfully managed angry crowds unwilling to adhere to mask mandates. I am sure I can say the same for our colleagues working in other security verticals as well. The pandemic has shown us that emotional and cultural intelligence is vitally important, and we can only achieve those goals through strengthening our diversity and developing our inclusion.
I watched the protest for racial justice with intrigue from a security professional perspective, and concern from a citizen perspective. It would be a misnomer to assert that we can disentangle ourselves from the issues and events in society as security professionals. Many of us were not afforded opportunities to process the events that sparked the massive protests that occurred throughout the summer of 2020 because we were called to duty to cover extra shifts or boost security presence at the sites we serve. We reported to duty in response to civil unrest in the area, and our clients were on high alert. Our diversity and connection to the communities we serve allowed us to navigate those volatile times through shared experience, emotional intelligence, empathy, and professionalism of the highest order. Diversity in our organization is our greatest strength. We have all been part of a situation where merely changing the officer communicating has deescalated a problem. I remember reading a statement from a leader in our organization during the time of the protests. The message was clear "our goal as an organization is to make the world a safer and friendlier place". We committed to doing so by embracing diversity, developing our efforts to include, and celebrating our team's lived and learned experience.
Safety and security needs have never been more critical, and our industry is slowly but surely professionalizing in a manner to rebrand the model and role of the security officer. The presence and need for security are apparent in all society’s avenues, from school guards to protecting emerging industries like cannabis farm security to responding to community unrest and securing vaccination centers rapidly. Security officers will be at the center of it all. The need to embrace diversity matters. Developing our cultural awareness is essential; and our efforts to include everyone in our teams will make us stronger.
During this Black History Month, I know that we are engaging in the PalAmerican Difference every day we report to work. Leaning into our diversity, emotional and cultural intelligence, and connection to the communities we serve will put us on the right path to making the world a safer and friendlier place.