Transitioning Security: a 12-Year Overview

Byron Sanderson is a full-time Security Officer at the UW-Madison Police Department. He started at UWPD in 2005. UWPD Security Officers provide a wide range of services from assisting with building access to assisting UWPD officers with emergency matters. Security Officers provide security services for more than 300 buildings on campus. They are responsible for locking more than 50 buildings each — that’s more than 1,800 doors every single night!

I started working as a Security Officer for the UW-Madison Police Department in 2005 — now 12 years later, the changes from then to now have been substantial.  A computerized card access system was just coming online in 2005, with only a handful of buildings in the system. We used to fax (yes, fax!) security discrepancies to the building managers every morning at the end of the third shift.  Heck, people even still used inter-office mail on a regular basis! Our time sheets were handwritten; I forgot then and I still forget now to fill it out (on occasion!). Bottom line: security is now far more digital in function than it was when I started, and in turn, has made the job more technical.

Transitioning over the years from a more physical type of security to the digital type has been a process.  Troubleshooting a broken door, for example, has gone from physically checking the traditional door hardware to having a person at a computer workstation and an officer on-site verifying that the door is receiving commands from the computer.  Or, making sure that when a special event is scheduled, the computer does indeed open the door.

Smartphones, perhaps, have had one of the biggest impacts on how we organize and communicate while working.  One example that comes to mind was a Thursday night at the Chazen Museum of Art when an interactive sculpture was damaged.  I was unable to contact any of the museum staff via traditional phone, however they did respond to text messages that I sent from my smartphone.  By sending them a picture message from my phone, staff determined that it was unnecessary to come in that night.  Smartphones have given us the ability to send work requests right from the building needing the repair.  These are only a couple of examples of how smartphones have become integrated with doing our jobs.

Because our campus is still a mix of old technology and new, being an effective security officer means you need the traditional skills of seeing what is wrong with an “old school” lock and crash-bar — but you also need to be fairly knowledgeable in operating a computer.

In the process writing this short article has really helped me conceptualize all the changes and the amount of knowledge that I have acquired in the past 12 years. Who knows what lies ahead in the next dozen or so years.

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