N Touch
Monday 21 January 2019
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Editorial

Safeguarding customers

MEMBERS of private security services face as much peril as members of the protective services and the tragic murder of Kerwin Williams, 37, at Debe on Tuesday is a graphic reminder. We lament this killing and offer condolences to Williams’ family and also express the hope that the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice.

There may well be disagreement over the appropriate bounds of the use of force as well as rhetoric by the Police Service, but there is no dispute over the nature of the threat being faced daily by officers and private citizens alike. A simple thing like a trip to a grocery store is now fraught with risk.

Members of the business community offer us a service. In addition to guaranteeing quality and an adequate level of service, they also have a responsibility to take measures to safeguard our safety while on their premises. This is a basic collateral contract that consumers increasingly rely on.

But there is a difference between taking steps to safeguard customers and offering good service.

The recent incident involving a retired acting assistant commissioner of police being accused of stealing rotisserie chickens at a supermarket shows up the dramatically messy grey area of accountability that increased reliance on private security has now engendered.

In some respects, the retired officer is lucky. Not everyone is in a position to claim her pedigree. Many people have already come forward reporting being subject to similar treatment at the hands of rude or belligerent officials who held dubious authority over them.

The retired officer was able to prove she paid for her grocery items but was asked to also show a separate receipt for four cooked meals. Most groceries tend to treat with freshly prepared food separately from other items being retailed, but whatever procedures were in place it is clear the retired officer was dissatisfied with the approach to her. She accuses the guard of embarrassing her and issuing threats and has reported assault.

It is unclear if the woman asked to speak with a senior manager, but there have been reports that video surveillance footage from the supermarket was given to investigators who found no evidence suggesting she committed an offence.

While the matter is probed, it must be acknowledged that at the best of times customer service is sorely lacking. No one is entitled to be disrespectful towards the guards whose responsibility is to protect all customers. At the same time, proper training to diffuse confrontations should be a basic prerequisite.

Too often, both in the public and private sector, power is wielded in a way that becomes oppressive and that militates against civility and order. This is not conducive to productivity in the long run and creates needless friction between ordinary citizens who have rights and people just trying to do their job.

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