In an area where criminal acts are unpredictable, private policing functions remain paramount. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California leads the nation in the number of security guards currently in place to protect civilians, property and valuable assets. Although the salary range is outstretched, many of these modern-day sentries average an annual wage closing in on $30,000. One top industry in Los Angeles that relies on these defense monitors is higher education.

(Photo Courtesy of  Hampton N. Cantrell)

(Photo Courtesy of Hampton N. Cantrell)

“Their focus is protecting and keeping the public secure at colleges and universities,” said Hampton N. Cantrell, chief of public safety at Loyola Marymount University. “It is a growing and challenging profession, requiring significant collaboration with campus stakeholders. If you are a people person, this is a good business to be in.”

In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, Cantrell said campuses in general have enacted stricter measures to safeguard their students, personnel and faculty.

“There is a clear expectation that security staff members understand emergency procedures, lead and conduct regular drills and be a central partner in solving behavioral issues,” said Cantrell, a licensed attorney and former police captain.

What are a security officer’s key attributes?

“A successful security officer or manager understands the high-touch and high-technology principles that keep people safe, as well as making them feel safe by utilizing different modalities. They also have a keen eye for observation.”

In what ways have the responsibilities of a security guard become more pivotal?

“Security staff is now charged with being more proactive in preventing and mitigating criminal incidents, accidents and natural disasters.  Public safety staff must educate and train its institution in prevention, awareness and self-help.”

What is your advice to those desiring to pursue a profession in public safety?   

“Although there are aspects of security that require command presence and physical stature, you will not get too far if you cannot write and speak well. Since this is a people business, you must have good interpersonal skills. The business sometimes appears to be a thankless one, so you must keep a good sense of humor and not take things personally.”

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to


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