Why Building Rapport With Police Is Good for the Alarm Business
In spite of the fact that the alarm industry and the police are in a public/private partnership, it is frightening how few of us can even name our hometown police chief or sheriff.
Have you ever considered inviting your chief to speak at a local association meeting? Or how about requesting a meeting and offering your assistance in dealing with the false dispatch issue? What’s that you said? You’re kind of intimidated by the police? We all are, but we shouldn’t be. Do you remember that uneasy feeling of dealing with authority figures — teachers, the principal, coaches — back in grade school? That stays with us as we get older and it affects us as we branch out in life, regardless of where we end up.
In the electronic security industry, many of us run small businesses. Our industry is dominated not by national companies but by family-owned local and regional alarm companies. Though we know what we’re doing when we sell, install and service security systems, we step outside of our comfort zone when we meet with a police chief or other member of law enforcement. It’s unknown territory.
Think of a time when you heard a bunch of bad stuff about a person and then you finally met them and they were OK in your book. That will be the same case with police officers. They are really nothing more than your next door neighbor.
Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) speaks from experience. Our staff includes former police officers. More importantly, however, is the fact that we go out of our way to work closely with law enforcement officials across North America to craft solutions to alarm management problems. That means we regularly step outside our comfort zones, flying into new areas, building new relationships with authority figures, and finding common ground that benefits public safety and the electronic security industry. It’s hard work, but keeping at it makes it easier the next time we have to make a trip.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
None of us can complain when a local police department announces unexpectedly it is going to stop responding to alarms, when for years, perhaps even decades, our industry has never proposed any solutions, nor even attempted to meet with local officials. Shame on us when those situations arise. It shouldn’t matter that we don’t know the chief. Pick up the phone and call. Ask for a meeting. Explain how you or your association can help.
The Tennessee Electronic Security Association (TNESA) recently began giving an annual award to the best chief in the state. The police association determines who that will be, but TNESA honors that person with a commemorative firearm. Now if you want to see a cop’s eyes sparkle, give him a nice gun. The Alarm Association of Florida (AAF) contributes to a wall of honor that each year recognizes the best chief law enforcement official in the state and their names are forever inscribed on this wall.
Both of these states stepped outside their comfort zones to build a bridge with law enforcement that benefits both parties in the long run.
You cannot contribute directly to a law enforcement officer but you can contribute through their state’s Police Benevolent Association (PBA) or Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) chapter. The award then goes to the person they select. You’d be surprised at just how much goodwill can be created for the price of a $100 gift card or dinner given to an officer of the month. But when we’re uncomfortable, it’s easier to say, “No, I’m not going to do that.” Would your business be successful if that’s how you operated on a regular basis? I didn’t think so.
Therefore, apply the same principle for customers in order to develop good relationships with police chiefs in the areas you serve. See them as a part of your customer base and important to your long-term success. When you cross into that territory, you’ll find good things happen for the security industry, and you’ll probably make some new friends.
Ron Walters is Director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC). He can be contacted at (954) 347-4883.
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