Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Security, guard, officer ? police ? what's what?

I came across some questions people posted on line while shopping for suppliers to public safety people like myself.  I was in need of boots and wanted to see what else was offered.  The questions were concerning what security people were in relation to police, or their duties, in other words, what can they do, and what can't they do.  As I am a certified security guard I'll try to clear things up. The role of security is to augment an existing police force, not to take on the role of police, and not to assume the responsibilities of police officers. The only exception is a security team through an agency, with the use of proper permits travels abroad to foreign countries where police forces do not exist, or cannot be trusted. In which case they do not augment as they are the only protection force available, but they still do not function as officers of the law.  To be a certified security guard one must be hired on by a security agency, or start their own.  In either case the person's information is submitted to the state police for a back round check, and authorization to work is granted if cleared.  The state police regulates security agencies, investigates and authorizes security guards, private investigators, rail road police, special police, and security alarm companies. When state police clear a person to function as a security guard they issue what in the business is refereed to as a guard card which is an identification card.  Some include a photo, some say certified security guard, or something similar.  Only police are sworn officers of the law.  That means they have legal authorization by the government they serve to put you in a car and take you to jail. That's an arrest, that's taking away one's freedom.   A security guard does not and cannot do that. There is no such thing as a security officer.   A security guard is a visual deterrent, and only with proper training, and permits, can they detain a suspect, and detain them with the use of a gun, handcuffs, or dog, but they must call the police to affect the arrest, and take them to jail. Any citizen can make a citizens arrest by law.  The process is the same.  The police are called, the situation is explained, and the police officer makes an arrest if determined necessary.   In any instance where a security guard uses force, in any case they put their hands on anyone in the course of duty, they can be held accountable in court where they must produce written statements, or eye witness testimony from others that their actions were warranted just like a citizen who does the same.  The judge then makes a decision if the actions were legal or not.  Security forces augment police forces because police can't be everywhere all the time.  They serve the role of peace keepers in the case of uniformed service.  That means they wear a uniform and stand a post or patrol an assigned area in the hopes that people will behave themselves.  In cases where people do not behave, they call the police for assistance, they record information onto reports for court, and assist the police as directed.  Unarmed security guards in this role must be experts in dealing with people and handling situations, so as not to escalate a situation. They also face the risk of dealing with armed baddies while they are not. The other side of that is the risk of liability is negated to a certain extent if things get out of control.  The armed uniformed guard serves the same role with the added visual deterrent being the gun.  The same with the dog.  They use dogs to sniff out drugs, and weapons as well.  Undercover, plain clothes security guards act in the same capacity as uniformed guards while blending into the scene.  They may also be authorized to carry a weapon.  Permit required.  Plain clothes guards observe and report, they are also called store detectives.  They operate to curtail retail theft.  A security guard may detain as stated before with training and permits according to local laws.  If they must use handcuffs, if they must use  a dog, if they must draw a weapon, then they will do so if the situation warrants it.  Any security guard who carries a gun must have a permit to carry.  Without the permit the guard may be arrested by police as well when they respond to an incident. They can also be trained to run radar, and do traffic citations, again according to local laws, and in cooperation with local police departments.  Any doubt about local laws can be cleared up by contacting your state police.  Any situation with security personnel you think suspicious, you may contact your local police department and request an officer to the scene.  Every authorized security guard is in the state criminal justice computer system (cjis) and any police officer can radio in a request for information to their dispatcher who can tell the officer if the security guard is legit or not within seconds.  Only egotistical types in the security business insist on calling themselves officers. And, unfortunately so many of them have requested merchandise from public safety equipment suppliers with security officer on badges, and bags, and garments, that those suppliers have begun to offer them fazing out products with security guard due to lack of demand. It's a problem. Most security professionals are retired police or military people who took on the work of security to compliment their retirement income.  Most are good folks who just want to get paid for doing a job, but as with everything else there are those who probably shouldn't be doing the job.  So, know your local laws and make phone calls if you have doubts. To my fellow co-workers in the security field, you are not an officer.  You are a guard. Even if you are a retired police officer, you function in your job as a security guard.   Be proud to be a guard, you have been cleared by the state police, you have been trained, you have been certified, you have been deemed trustworthy, you are hired to protect persons, and property, and money.  Don't screw it up by acting dumb.  And, stop being egotist.