The Observation Process

For the purposes of the security officer the process of observation can be divided into three stages: attention, perception, and report.


The psychological process of being brought into the presence of a fact is called attention. The observer cannot observe something unless he or she is aware of it. Attention is usually divided into three phases, voluntary, involuntary and habitual. Each of these phases is influenced by factors such as size, change, interest, physical condition, suggestion and repetition.


Perception is the recognition of the significance of an event or situation. With perception, the security officer not only observes a situation but also understands what is occurring. The understanding of an event is influenced by the following factors:

  1. Intelligence– the mental ability of the observer.
  2. Educational Background– observation depends in large part on the ability to make reference to other situations. The educated person has an obvious advantage in being able to refer observed situations to other matters that have been learned as a direct result of their education.
  3. Experience and Occupation– these elements consist of a frame of reference for the observer. Security officers who have witnessed violence on a picket line during a labor strike will have a clear greater advantage in accurately describing the events than the security officer who is experiencing a strike for the first time.


Report is the third element of the observation process. Report refers to the identification of facts such as the identity of a subject or vehicle known to be at the scene of the event.