SIAC: Win-Win Solutions Work Best for Industry and Law Enforcement

By partnering with law enforcement, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) can better communicate with local governments about alarm ordinances.

There is no question that being a police chief is one of the most important and challenging jobs anyone could have. Having someone in the Security Industry Alarm Coalition who has worn the badge and uniform is important to SIAC’s nationwide program to promote effective ordinances that curtail false alarms and maintain response by highly trained police officers.

“The old saying, ‘Walk a mile in my shoes,’ describes the benefit of law enforcement leadership experience in helping public safety agencies deal with alarm issues,” says SIAC Law Enforcement Liaison Steve Keefer, a retired police chief (Sparks, Nev.) “As a former chief, I can speak from personal experience about how a department can successfully and dramatically reduce calls for service using the best practices SIAC has developed with organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police [IACP] and National Sheriffs’ Association [NSA]. Based on my experience in Nevada, I can honestly say, ‘Been there, done that.’”

A situation that arose in Chico, Calif., illustrates serious challenges that can confront the industry. The city council there had unanimously passed an ordinance that both required verified response and fining alarm companies.

“We teamed with the California Alarm Association [CAA] to deal with the issue,” says Keefer. “We were hearing the same types of arguments that are frequently heard in this type of situation. Namely that the industry was profiting while the police were doing all the work. Opposition to verified response also created tension that led to the proposal to fine alarm companies rather than alarm owners.”

“Our goals are to get public safety leaders and elected officials to look at the big picture,” says Stan Martin, SIAC executive director and an SSI Industry Hall of Famer. “If a community can obtain a dramatic decrease in alarm dispatches using the Model Ordinance, it is a win-win situation that involves virtually no controversy. Steve was able to help make that case in person with leaders in the department. Fining alarm companies required a stronger approach. While there are many logical arguments against this approach, it does not raise the same level of concern that nonresponse does from the public.”

In this instance, SIAC teamed with CAA to develop a lawsuit to convince the city attorney to end the practice. Within six months the city council reversed course, eliminating verified response and fining alarm companies. The city currently utilizes a version of the Model Alarm Ordinance.

In California, the industry has since achieved passage of a state law that bans fining alarm companies. Today, Keefer and his colleague, Glen Mowrey, retired deputy chief from Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) continue to reach out to public safety agencies on a regular basis.

Mowrey was recently honored with the Outstanding Partnership Award from the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police for his work in that state.

One innovation Mowrey developed was the creation of statewide alarm management committees. The committees are coordinated by SIAC and include law enforcement personnel and alarm industry veterans to identify alarm management issues, develop programs and engage in problem-solving initiatives.

Since the first committee was formed in 2004, the concept has been expanded to 14 states. On a national level, Martin continues to work closely with leaders in law enforcement to support the Model Alarm Ordinance.

The IACP approved a resolution at its 2018 Annual Conference “encouraging the use of this 2018 Model Ordinance … and all of the best practices.”

The NSA also passed a resolution, saying it “recognizes the need for and value of strong enforcement recommended in this Model Ordinance to achieve the desired reduction in alarm dispatches experienced by police agencies.”

“There is always some initial suspicion when you are a police chief,” says Keefer. “People who approach you generally have an agenda, which may or may not be good for your community. Being a retired chief helps open the door for a conversation, but in the end it is SIAC offering a proven win-win solution to an important issue that is endorsed by leading public safety organizations that closes the deal.”

David Margulies is Principal of the Margulies Communications Group.

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