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What is the difference between a policy and a procedure?  What are the functions of policies?

Introduction to Security: Operations and Management

Edition: 5th
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A policy is a general statement of intent describing how situations should be handled. Policy statements also show preferences and provide guiding principles for employees and the organization.  Policy statements describe general goals and focus on a wide range of personnel issues, such as selection, discipline, promotion, and termination. They often address behavioral problems associated with substance abuse, sexual harassment, discrimination, as well as workplace violence and safety, and the use of force. Policies also show values: affirmative action, equal opportunity employment, conflict of interest, and ethics are some examples. Furthermore, policies can be used to help create accountability for managerial and employee-based activities. In fact, in some cases, policies are considered the constitution of the workforce, clearly describing acceptable levels of conduct and explaining what the company expects and values. Existing policies will require periodic revision, and additional policies may be created as new situations or issues arise. A procedure outlines a series of steps to be followed when carrying out a policy. Procedures outline specific operational protocols and describe detailed responses to incidents or events. Procedures often cover a wider range of activities and they are more specific than policies. Some examples of procedures include: blood-borne pathogens/universal precautions, evidence handling, emergency procedures (bomb threat, active shooter, and fire), patrol procedures, and handling sensitive and classified information. In some situations, case law will require new procedures. For example, in its Graham v. Conner (1989) decision, the U.S. Supreme Court determined the legal standards and guidelines regarding the use of force. Now, for force to be considered reasonable and not excessive in nature, the level of force used must be objectively reasonable and based on the totality of circumstances related to the particular incident. Because of this decision, security companies must ensure that they have a correct use of force policy and detailed procedures related to when force can be legally and ethically used. Policies and procedures serve many functions. First, they provide guidance for security staff on what to do in certain situations. In doing so, policies serve to restrict activities by staff. They serve to frame discretionary decisions by staff, ensuring that they act in a professional, legal, and ethical manner. Next, well-designed policies and procedures also serve as a liability reduction tool. For example, in most cases, employers have many policies and procedures for high-risk/liability situations such as use of force and arrest where the policy and procedures clearly dictate what actions are appropriate. These comprehensive and up to date policies ensure that the organization is in compliance with existing laws and regulations, serving to reduce legal risk/liability against staff and the organization. Policies and procedures are also a training tool. Their existence serves to notify and educate staff on what is appropriate. And, if an issue should occur, the policy and procedure manual can be used for disciplinary purposes to correct behaviors and actions. However, precise guidance may not be appropriate in all situations. Security personnel often work alone in settings that require the exercise of independent judgment and discretion. Thus, overreliance on standardized procedures can discourage critical thinking, problem solving, initiative, and imagination.
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