Our History

CIS started with a two thousand dollar loan and a financed computer and color printer that founder, K.C. Poulin, stationed in the empty sunroom of his house. There was no money for a traditional office, or much of anything. There was no one to answer the phone, no staff, no support systems in place to provide structure, no clients and no guarantee of success. To say the least, resources were limited, but the dream and the drive to achieve excellence in the security industry were not. Years of working in a variety of security environments and six years of conceptualization took place prior to CIS’s inception. Poulin, along with his colleagues Tim O’Rourke and Craig Gundry often met after twelve hour shifts for midnight meetings at Denny’s on Fowler Avenue where they studied and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the security firms they had worked for and planned the creation of their own agency. Eventually, and without any real business experience other than field supervision and mid-level management, Poulin’s eagerness overcame any lingering reservations and he launched CIS on February 12, 1992—the day of the year Abraham Lincoln is recognized. A short time later, in 1993 and 1994, respectively, Gundry and O’Rourke joined forces with Poulin.

 

 

 

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Though a mere coincidence, or perhaps a twist of fate, it is of special significance that CIS was incorporated on Lincoln’s birthday because it was during his presidency that the Pinkerton National Detective Agency established itself as the first private security organization. Pinkerton’s was a leading force in protecting the country, handling many of the functions public law enforcement eventually overtook. With that historical change came the consequence of a disturbing decline in the prestige, reputation and capabilities of private security officers. This is the image that CIS set out to reform in 1992 and is the driving force behind CIS’s unwavering commitment to both setting and practicing the highest standards in the private protection industry. Just as Pinkerton’s holds an important place in the history of the private security industry, so it does in the history of CIS.

For the first two years, CIS struggled to get on its way. The founders scrounged for time to learn about industry business operations as they worked tirelessly to grow the agency and out perform others in the industry through skill and professionalism. They held steadfastly to their belief in setting the highest standards and it paid off because by the end of the first two years CIS had distinguished itself from other agencies and established a reputation for quality services.

In the beginning, CIS set out to offer only high-end security services, but at the behest of a client accepted a challenging security assignment in a troubled apartment community in northeastern Hillsborough County. It turned out, there were many of them in the area. These crime-ridden communities had tried it all: off-duty police, major name private security firms, smaller security firms, but none provided any real or lasting reduction in crime. With other security agencies focusing on low-risk accounts in high- income areas, these distressed communities seemed all but forgotten. CIS accepted the challenge and approached the job with novel strategy, considering it a mission to solve problems rather than just a post to watch. Instead of monitoring gatehouses and policing residents, CIS employed innovative intervention strategies and proactive networking with residents, especially children and families. It worked, and the results were quickly apparent.

As word spread, one community turned into two, and then three and soon CIS’s fate was sealed as the agency that would become known for doing more than simply “observe and report,” which was then the industry standard. CIS was providing not just security, but security solutions that ultimately helped rebuild these communities. Just as importantly, CIS was elevating industry standards, right from the start! That focus-- to professionalize the industry at a new level-- distinguished CIS from the rest. Other security agencies advertised their professionalism, but CIS was the only agency delivering it.

Before long, CIS came to dominate the Tampa area, which served as a laboratory for refining agency strategies and methodologies for reclaiming and rehabilitating high crime communities. CIS’s successful work within the infamous “Suitcase City” area drew CIS its first media attention. Tampa Bay’s Channel 8 first put the spotlight on CIS’s Uniformed Division, quickly followed by Channel 10 and Channel 13 that ran a late-night newscast highlighting CIS activity and the advantages of CIS strategies in high-crime communities. In turn, that publicity fueled an abundance of growth for CIS.

Knowing they had pioneered an effective philosophy for providing community protection services, the founders formalized their concept in 1995. Considered non-traditional by many in the security industry yet refreshingly cutting edge to others, what started initially as trial-and-error methods transformed into a fully defined, hands-on, results-oriented model: the Community and Character Based Protection Initiative (CCBPI). The founders envisioned and developed CCBPI as a three-phased system that identifies, interrupts and removes criminal elements from a given community by seeking support from and empowering the very people living within it. Twenty-plus years later, CCBPI remains the methodological mainstay of CIS’s Uniformed Division.


Throughout the mid-1990s, communities continued to seek out CIS for protection services and service niches developed, compelling CIS to organize its operations and define its methodologies, which took place in the form of comprehensive written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Today, CIS has published its second edition of the SOPs and continues to add to and refine them. CIS takes pride in this accomplishment as very few agencies are known to have published SOPs. During this time period, CIS also created its Protective Services Division, which now monitors and assesses terrorist threats throughout the world. Additionally, media attention began to grow, first locally, then nationally and internationally. CIS offered expert commentary after the Oklahoma City bombing in April of 1995 and that broadcast sent CIS on its way to becoming a leader in providing Tampa Bay with analysis about security events. The Wall Street Journal published a feature story on the CCBPI methodology in 1996, and the following year both ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and The O’Reilly Factor aired segments on the CIS methodology. Eventually, media recognition reached an international audience with feature articles and broadcast segments by well-known media outlets in Norway, France and Germany. Throughout the years, the media have sought expert commentary from CIS hundreds of times regarding a wide range of security events and matters, including the Oklahoma City bombing, the Unabomber, the Amtrack derailment in Mississippi, the TWA airline crash, the Atlanta pipe bombing, fast food restaurant crime, airport regulations changes, and, most certainly, 9/11, the Sandy Hook tragedy and the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Toward the end of 1994, CIS had become a corporation with enough means to hire a secretary and deploy a dozen officers in several locations in the Tampa Bay Area, but a lack of meaningful business systems threatened the vitality of the organization. The founders revisited their thinking of infrastructure as an afterthought and started establishing systems to stabilize the agency. Key to its fortification was focus on operations, communications and technology. By 1996, CIS’s business mindset matured and field operations transitioned into a structured field organization that followed a chain of command. That same year CIS outgrew being a household operation and moved into an office, leasing the first of several spaces in the Clearwater Plaza on South Missouri Avenue.

The late 1990’s marked the beginning of a new era at CIS. Frustrated with the quality of training available to security professionals, the founders created the S2 Safety and Intelligence Institute in 1998 with the primary purpose of providing practitioners with security and public safety training unrivaled by any other agency. And because everything CIS does is for the benefit and advancement of the industry and its image, they launched S2 with doors wide open, allowing others from the industry to attend, train and benefit from the highly advanced programs they developed and implemented.

Over the years, CIS and S2 have expanded to meet the demands brought on by historical change and global events. As a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks, CIS created the Anti-Terrorism division in 2003 and, in conjunction with S2, developed strategies and training using the same solutions-oriented approach taken with high crime communities but specifically focused on counter-terrorism. CIS’s ATO program is hailed as a model by U.S. government offices and is taught in more than twenty different countries. Government agencies and private entities from across the globe seek education, instruction and training through CIS programs and classes that garner world-wide recognition. The launch of the ATO Division greatly expanded the realm of CIS services, taking them well outside the community realm. Today, roughly forty percent of CIS activity is attributed to its anti-terrorism efforts.

Shortly after CIS’s restructuring for terrorism response, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. CIS deployed 100 personnel in three states, putting all hands on deck for weeks on end and testing CIS’s operational and deployment capabilities during a time of extreme emergency. This challenge offered the founders the opportunity to study the strengths and weaknesses of CIS’s disaster response strategies and systems and to significantly improve logistics and communications systems and disaster operations overall. Today, CIS has the most advanced disaster response system of any agency in the nation. CIS has deployed protection teams in a dozen major storm related disasters and is frequently called upon to provide security measures for critical infrastructure systems crucial to public safety and well being during states of emergency. The demands of private security are constantly changing and CIS always has its eye on the horizon to meet them.

Historically, CIS has made it a practice to be very open about and share its techniques, methodologies and practices in many public forums including published articles, television spotlights, on-line forums and in the two books co-authored by Poulin. Private Security and Public Safety: A Community Based Approach and The Prevention Agency, were both published in 2005. Both practical works encompass comprehensive review, analysis, discussion and suggestion on matters intrinsic to the private security industry and the need for an increased role for private security in the maintenance of order. These respected works unite the world of the practitioner and the academic realm and worked to establish permanency for CCBPI as a valuable and effective methodology in the public safety mission. The year 2009 brought yet more prominence to CIS. Poulin became president of the Florida Association of Security Companies and O’Rourke became president of the Florida Association of Licensed Investigators.

CIS has been instrumental in affecting legislative changes for the industry, which provide protections and resources for security practitioners who risk their lives every day. Along the way CIS has faced resistance from others in the industry who have no interest in stepping up and joining forces to make improvements, but has also gained support from those who understand change is necessary and results in better protection for the public. For twenty plus years CIS’s founders, leaders and practitioners have worked tirelessly to promulgate higher standards and better laws and spearhead change within the industry. From day one, CIS’s building block belief has been that the first line of defense for meeting clients’ security needs is to screen the officer. CIS has set the standard high by requiring all officers to undergo and pass IQ, psychological and personality testing along with field training. Over its lifespan, CIS as allocated a great deal of resources, intellectual and monetary alike, to ensure the right officers are placed in the field and will live up to CIS standards.

CIS is ever evolving. In 2009 its growth reached height requiring a big change to accommodate—construction of and relocation to the Public Safety Center in Largo, which is now home to CIS headquarters along with the S2 Safety and Intelligence Institute. The headquarters also house CIS’s sophisticated 24 hour Operations Center, utilizing state-of-the-art technology that helps ensure the safety of CIS protection officers and the clients we serve. CIS has experienced tremendous growth and transformation since its inception two decades ago. Heading into yet another evolution, marked by even more growth and expansion into new cities and uncharted territory, CIS is committed to principles of leadership and virtues that will ensure the continued stability of its culture and its operation. Forging ahead, CIS will remain the foremost protection firm in private sector led public safety, deeply committed to the science, development and application of security solutions.