LAST EDIT November 27, 2023
The Best Show About Private Security and Why You Should Ignore the Critics and Watch It
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Let me introduce you to what I believe was the best show ever made about private security, tell you why I believe it is the best, and why you should watch it, and why you should disregard the disparagements of the critics.
Here's what I think was the best show about private security: It's the show about America's most famous "mall cops." You remember malls, right? They were those large buildings where the term "mall cop" had became a meme for unarmed guards in poorly fitting uniforms, sometimes losing it whenever a teenager jumped into the fountain, dropped his Orange Julies over the 2nd floor railing.
In 2009, TLC's Mall Cops introduced the country to another type of mall cop. The professional officers who man the in-house security team at America's most famous shopping mall.
Opened in 1992, having been built on the site of the famous Met, aka Metropolitan Stadium, former home to the Twins and the Vikings, and the site of Harmon Killebrew's famous 1967, 520-foot home run, The Mall of America boasted of being the largest shopping mall in the United States and the security department of having more than 100 officers on staff.
The pilot of the show drew more than 1 million viewers in October of 2009, a draw that had to entice TLC to greenlight the show's full season, which aired in 2010.
Though the show only ran for one season, it provided 12 episodes, which you can still watch. They are filled with helpful footage that provides a must-watch for those who are interested in the industry.
Of course, to do this, you will need to take my word for it, and disregard the critics, who panned the show, like The Hollywood Reporter's Barry Garron, who said, "There's a notion, perpetuated by films and comic strips, that mall security personnel are the Barney Fifes of law enforcement, exercising serious police muscles over the most minor infractions.
Now we get the lowdown. Here comes 'Mall Cops: Mall of America,' a half-hour reality series shot at Minnesota's famous and gigantic Mall of America and, well, that silly stereotype turns out to be pretty much the case."
Or, this from Media Life Magazine's Tom Conroy, who opined that the show featured, "a half-hour of blandness with a tinge of despair."
Reading Conroy's review suggests that he wanted a Paul Blart-type take on the "Mall Cops," or as he put it, "It's nice that the producers don't openly ridicule the mall cops, but some editorial stance would have been appreciated."
So, perhaps making fun of "mall cops" would have better provided for Conroy's entertainment, and maybe this would have kept the show on the air for more than one season, but one who watches the show will know that despite the meme "mall cops" term in the title, the show presents what seems to be a truly professional in-house security department and one that nicely contrasts with the "mall cops" stereotype.
And, maybe that's why the critics didn't like it, but it's why you should.
It shows the officers adeptly handling the day-to-day basics of mall security: teenagers throwing stuff off of the ledge, people who can't find a lost car, lots of lost kids being reunited with their parents, and everything pretty much always ends well.
And they do it while keeping those white uniforms looking white, mostly keeping their hats on, and possessing the bearing one would expect to see from law enforcement: i.e., not much slouching, or doing too many of the things, such as hands in pockets, that are a dead giveaway of a security guard. Essentially, these aren't the meme-able "mall cops," thus why the title is so ironic and why perhaps critics such as Conroy might have felt misled.
Sure, there's a hint of the usual overproduction that's par for the course for the second generation era of reality shows, in this case, a TLC show that was produced in the aughts and early teens.
I watched the show back after its original release, and I've watched other security reality TV, which I am not going to name here, and here's one reason why I like the show: the training opportunities. If you are an aspiring professional, or a company owner or supervisor, who needs to train your own officer, the footage offers numerous opportunities.
For example, in episode four, an officer confronts a tough issue, that all security officers should be trained for: a potentially intoxicated subject, who thinks he is fine to drive off of the site, but the officer isn't so sure. These are tricky situations; if the officer isn't sure that the subject isn't publicly intoxicated, he can't likely make a private person's arrest on public intox, because he doesn't want to make a mistake, but if the subject leaves the site, and creates an accident, those impacted by the accident might seek recourse from the officer's employer.
The footage shows the officer skillfully negotiating the matter, informing the subject of his intent to call in the police but avoids having to make an arrest, which wouldn't have been to anyone's benefit. Everything ends well when the individual decides he won't drive after all and won't take the risk that would come with police involvement.
This footage should be shown in every security certification classroom as it's a real-world situation that many officers are likely to encounter and that they should prepare for, and now they can, courtesy of Mall Cops.
Speaking of classroom footage, that same episode shows officers executing a textbook trespass eviction—one of the security officer's foremost tools for maintaining order. Once again, this footage would bring to life, in a classroom, the specifics of how trespass policy should work and be enforced, instead of just relying on dry book reading and PowerPoint presentations.
Or, this clip from episode six, it shows how an officer must go through a purse to find an identifier but does so, very wisely, in the presence of witnesses, thus protecting himself against any allegation that he removed valuables.
Watch enough of the show and you will find any number of other similar examples, examples of professionalism and great customer-centric service and, maybe not hilariously funny, but amusing moments such as this: "I am out with one playing the piano."
Or, knowing how to respond when a YouTube movie wants to make a Ghostbusters movie in the parking lot but doesn't seem to have gotten the approval of mall management to film. Provided of course, that this one wasn't staged for production purposes, I would be very interested in finding out if this really was a 2009-era movie-for-YouTube team; let me know if you know.
To sum up, the show provides plenty of learning opportunities and examples of professionalism for new and improving security officers and for those who do watch, they go a long way to offsetting the "Mall Cop" meme.
You can find all episodes of this show still for sale on Amazon. Use the link in the description to support The Security Officer Network.
There are other shows and movies about security officers. But, in my view, most, if not all, of the alternatives, are either overproduced, provide little value in the way of actual teaching content, or do more to make a joke out of security work than to show actual security professionals being—security professionals.
Do you agree with my take on this? If not, let me know in the comments, what is the best private security show?
And as always, if you are or are aspiring to be a true security professional, then join us at TheSecurityOfficerNetwork.com. The network membership card is the security professional's tool for impressing future employers and clients with his commitment to his skill. Join today at The Security Officer Network dot com.
That's it for now.
Until next time.
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