Why I Am No Longer a CPP


While there are several hundred thousand people actively working in the security profession in the U.S. alone, there have never been more than 4000 people worldwide who are certified through our professional association in security management. Being a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) is a distinction and honor one earns by sitting for a day long exam, but only after meeting strict qualifications for time in service in a security management position and studying long and hard. I was proud to be one of those CPPs who passed the test the first time, and I remained a CPP through 2014.  I was a CPP since 1984--31 years.

I was the second CPP in the museum field. Back then you had to pass tests in four areas of specialty in addition to just security management as is the case today, so I tested in "educational institution security", "hotel and lodging security" "banking security" and "retail security". There never was an exam in museum security.

I earned my certification in 1984 by exam and re-certified every two years since then until 2014-2015 when I did not re-certify. Those were the years I had problems with a hereditary condition with a heart artery that had previously been considered incurable and subsequently had it fixed with seven and one half hours of open-heart surgery. This was the year I spent six months in cardio-rehab, building my heart up so I could survive the surgery. Twenty-eight years before, my father died of this defect and I spent much of my life fully expecting to drop over dead in about 2015 from the same problem. When I became symptomatic in 2014, my priorities changed from doing continuing educational credits toward re-certifying, to staying alive and preparing my family and employees in case I didn't survive. In August 2014, following this surgery, I was declared 100% cured and no longer in any danger. Now I devote time every day to exercise to stay healthy.

The Certification Board offered me the usual additional year to re-certify and I considered doing so but decided that I would let my certification lapse permanently.  I passed the certification test initially. I re-certified continuously for thirty years. Re-certification points are awarded for attending seminars that, for the last 25 years, I often taught, or by writing articles for trade publications (I've written about 30 already plus producing about 40 training videos), by participating on committees (I've been on the two leading museum security committees for 35 years each and chaired both) and points are earned for speaking at Rotary and other business clubs on topics like crime prevention, something I've done many times before. Some of my credits were earned on more meaningful projects like doing pro bono work for non-profit groups like Head Start in an effort to improve child safety. (In my opinion, all certification points should be earned this way).

I could have re-certified. I recently finished contributions on two books, one on museum security and one on library security and these alone would give me the points I need. But I've decided that enough is enough. Everyone in the security profession with a CPP can qualify for Lifetime Certification at some point in their career but for all practical purposes that status is unavailable for self-employed consultants for technical reasons too complicated to go into here.  So why devote hours every year to re-certifying if there is never an opportunity to "retire" from the certification rat race?

To my clients and prospective clients who occasionally have a requirement that consultants they hire be CPPs, I say this: I am no less qualified today than at any time in my career and as someone who entered museum security in 1979 before many of today's security managers were even born, I am far more qualified than ever.  I have won the museum community's highest award, as well as honors from "Security" magazine, from the Smithsonian and from ASIS. I've chaired both major museum security committees. I wrote the original museum security guidelines, and a widely used training program for museums, as well as the template for a security department policy manual that I produced.  It is used in hundreds of institutions. I've written or contributed to numerous books, articles and other trade publications, and when there is a museum theft anywhere in the world, my phone rings off the hook when the press calls me for interviews. Recently I was interviewed on Chinese national radio and last week I was quoted in the New York Times twice in a week. In 2020 I was an advisor to Netflix on a documentary on art theft and in July 2022 I filmed two episodes of a History Channel TV series to air next year on museum heists.

I have decided to stop chasing a re-certification that costs thousands of dollars for seminars in distant cities and divert those limited resources so that my employees can go and become more skilled, and to devote my time to some projects I have always wanted to complete. A definitive book on museum security will probably be my first project. I also felt that the security profession is changing rapidly and my clients are better served if I devote my learning to the new high tech issues like cyber security. And within the architectural community which we serve, AutoCAD is quickly becoming obsolete and REVIT, a new generation of computer aided design, is the new standard. REVIT requires tens of thousands of dollars in investment and hundreds of hours of training to master. We are now fully REVIT qualified.

I literally defined many aspects of museum security with my books, manuals and programs. I have over 950 museum clients worldwide.  Except for my website, I never even advertise and clients seek my company out. My website has hundreds of hits per week with new museum security managers downloading hundreds of pages of resources I provide. I don't need a piece of paper to establish my qualifications nor do I think my clients will expect me to maintain my certification as a technicality.

I want my clients to know that this doesn't mean I have decided to stop learning. My company has always been on the leading edge. While others are designing security systems for museums, we are designing more advanced systems along with unique ways to protect these systems from cyber attack. While others specify high tech access control and CCTV systems, we look deep into these systems to find vulnerabilities no one else thought to look for.  We are assessing risks that many experts don't even know exist. During the pandemic, we worked with a technology company on a camera system that reads skin temperature to screen employees and visitors to the museum.  I think my clients understand why I have stopped using the CPP designation after my name and that I am no less qualified today than when I was certified. You will still see me at ASIS and the Smithsonian conferences but it’s time to let the younger guys build their resumes as seminar speakers and spread some new ideas.

Do I support the CPP program? By all means! I urge all security professionals to earn their CPP and retain it during the active years of their careers. But keep all certifications in perspective.

I think that I have removed the CPP designation from every one of the hundreds of places it occurred on the company website. Some previously written articles that download from my site via links to other sites will, of course, still carry it as well as reprints and news articles from the past. If I find places I’ve missed, I’ll remove them.  By this statement I want to make it clear that I am no longer a CPP. If you have questions about my qualifications, please feel free to contact me.

                                                                                                                       Steve Keller

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