Security Q&A: Chris Phillips

MEI speaks to Chris Phillips, managing director at IPPSO, a security and management consultancy that offers bespoke and confidential strategic advice and practical solutions to UK and international clients. He is also head of security and resilience at MEI.

Please can you tell us a little about your background, and how you got into the industry?

“Thirty years as a police officer gave me lots of experiences in different levels of working at major sporting and security events. From having bricks thrown at me in Brixton in 1981, the following week I was helping to police the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Through fortunate postings and an interest in security I was lucky enough to work in a succession of roles which deepened my knowledge of security, especially at large sporting and major events.”

What are IPPSO's aims and ambitions?

“The last seven years of my service saw me head up the national counter terrorism security office. My role was to device and develop protective security for businesses in crowded places against the new and developing al Qaida threat of terrorism. IPPSO aims to assist businesses who are members of MEI to understand the market opportunities and potential and give them the best chance to sell their products at major events.”

Have approaches to major event security changed noticeably over the last decade or so?

“It is over a decade since al Qaida launched its attack in the US. There have been many hundreds of 'would be terrorists' arrested since. The problem we have is that the threat will adapt and change. The good news is that security has a number of basic concepts that don't need to change. In light of the financial woes of the world governments, police services will need to privatise security services. This is good news for private companies wishing to sell to the public sector. When I began as head of policing for Twickenham stadium we regularly deployed over 250 police officers inside the stadium. By the time I left, we often reduced that to less than 20 police officers and replaced them with far cheaper private security guards.”

With the rise in international terrorism activity, do you think that event organisers and those responsible for event security are learning lessons as time passes?

“There is a great deal of experience in the private sector and within event security. The difficulty comes with the issue of who holds the purse strings at events. The security manager must be able to dictate the level of security required on an event-by-event basis conducting a risk assessment on each occasion. That security professional must be able to demonstrate that they can be proportional in their decision making.”

What, in your opinion, still needs to be addressed?

“Proportionate intervention is the key. The event organiser needs to work very closely with experts in the security field in order to understand the specific threats to each event in order to put the proportionate level of security in place. ”

In terms of major event security, what are your thoughts on technology and research and development? (R&D)? Is enough being done?

“It is key to be on the leading edge. The UK has spent a lot of money over the years on R&D. Now that we are in a time of austerity, R&D is often the first thing to be effected. But it is crucial to test the technology. They are often big ticket items though so you need to be sure that the product does what it claims it can do.”

What are your thoughts on the major event industry as a whole at the current time?

“The future is bright. Events are growing in number and size. This is a big market place. Governments will be asking the event organisers today for their own security.”

Do you see legacy as a valid concern during event planning?

“Yes, legacy is a very important in a major event. But legacy comes in many different forms. As a result of the Olympics of 2012, not only we will have rejuvenated an area physically, but also we will have built a much larger professional security industry. Locations that consider security at the concept stage can prove much cheaper to secure for the whole of their lifetime.”

Finally, what are the necessary ingredients for good working relationships in the industry?

“I think that there is a good opportunity for smaller companies to come together to offer a complete security package. There are many opportunities for joint venture and partnership between companies. We should be encouraging innovation and looking at more effective ways of providing security.”

Additional information