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By John A. Petruzzi, Jr., CPP, 2021 president, ASIS International

“Time flies over us but leaves its shadow behind." These words from 19th century American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne hit me as a striking reminder of what our country and our world lost on 11 September 2001.

The shadow cast by the events of that day will forever haunt us. In the ensuing years, an outgrowth of security measures resulting from those hateful actions play a daily, prevalent, and now routine, role in our lives—in the ways we travel, attend sporting, cultural and school events, access our workplace and more. What was once a conversation assigned to a select few, has now become an ever-present vigilance requiring the coordination and collaboration of hundreds of thousands of men and women across the globe each day.     

9/11 proved to be a tipping point for long overdue discussions regarding public safety and security. Having served in the military and in the private sector, I’ve observed first-hand, how conversations about security have come out of the “basement bunker” and moved into the boardroom, and how security professionals are collaborating across politics, professions, and boarders like never before. More than 34,000 our members spread across 158 countries in our association alone, maintain the protection and wellbeing of millions of citizens.

For organizations and municipalities, security events can lead to loss of life, property, privacy and intellectual assets. In business settings, security is now directly tied to risk management and business continuity. Risk management is a topic of conversation organizations can no longer avoid having. According to market data firm Statista, “In 2020, the number of data breaches in the United States came in at a total of 1,001 cases. Meanwhile, over the course of the same year over 155.8 million individuals were affected by data breaches revealing sensitive information due to compromised information security.”  

Security is an “always on” operation. Physical and cyber security threats have evolved greatly over the past two decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has emboldened bad actors to find cyber vulnerabilities and exact both financial and emotional tolls on organizations, their employees, and the public-at-large. Unfortunately, this trend is not new but thankfully, these “bad actors” are not the only ones who are benefiting from the information-sharing technologies of the current age.

Since 9/11, we have also seen a rise in acts of domestic terrorism. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization, “white supremacists and other like-minded extremists conducted 67 percent of terrorist plots and attacks in the United States in 2020.”

Since 9/11, collaboration has become the hallmark of the security profession. Our collective mission to overrides competition. We are dedicated to sharing our experiences with one another and developing new standards, guidelines, and best practices that keep our communities as safe as possible.

But perhaps the most substantial change the security profession has experienced over the past 20 years goes beyond increased collaboration between private security and law enforcement and improved collaboration between the public and private sectors. It is the recognition and inclusion of diverse points of view, cultures, and experiences that has made us even more vigilant, more intelligent and better able to thwart security threats.

Collaboration that is built upon human knowledge and understanding and enhanced by current and yet-to-be created technologies. A new light is shining through the shadows left behind by 9/11, and the global security community will evolve to meet these needs.