What Security Guards Can and Can't Do | Get A Security Quote

What Security Guards Can and Can’t Do

If you’re an employer and you’re wondering what your security guards can legally do and what they should avoid, this guide is for you. It’s very easy to cross a line in the performance of duty, and then your security guard could be in trouble with the authorities, and that would leave your company vulnerable as well. 

Read through the information below, so that you’ll know everything your security guards can and can’t do on the job so that they will be protected, and your company will be protected.


What Is a Security Guard’s Jurisdiction?

A security guard is within legal limitations if he/she chooses to detain an individual when there is probable cause that shoplifting or some other crime has occurred on the premises. There are, however, some limitations that accompany this authority, namely that the detention must only last for a reasonable period of time, and it must be conducted in a reasonable manner.

There are some clauses in this limiting language which have been interpreted by legal bodies in the past and have come to have the present meanings. 

“Probable cause” is limited to a situation where a security guard has observed an individual picking up merchandise, concealing it, and leaving the store. 

The phrase “reasonable manner” means that handcuffs can only be used if it is necessary in the guard’s judgment. A pat-down of the suspect is allowable to determine whether or not that individual is carrying a weapon. It is also permissible to request identification from a suspect who has been detained

“Reasonable manner” excludes such actions as improper handcuff use, choking, foul language, verbal threats, discriminatory slurs, or any kind of application of pain. 

“Reasonable time” refers to the amount of time necessary for a security guard to conduct a reasonable investigation or to simply wait until the police arrive. It is not considered a “reasonable time” when a security guard delays calling the police so that their arrival time is extended in an unreasonable manner. 

In terms of property protection, a security guard is within his/her jurisdiction while on the grounds of the facility owned by an employer. Having left those grounds, for instance, to pursue someone who has run through the parking lot, it would be considered outside the guard’s jurisdiction.

Can a Security Guard Make an Arrest?

In terms of making arrests, security guards have virtually the same authority as any private citizen, and not much beyond that. Under the Citizens Arrest clause, private police-like security guards do have the power to make an arrest when they spot a person committing a crime. It’s very important in such cases, though that the security guard has probable cause to arrest someone, for instance, seeing someone in the act of shoplifting.

Security guards should avoid making arrests, except in situations where obvious felonies are being committed. It’s entirely possible that a security guard making a false arrest, or one that turns out to be unjustified, could cause your company to be sued for false arrest. That being so, even when security guards make citizens arrests after they have spotted a crime in progress, it’s always best that they immediately contact the local authorities, so that a fully legal arrest can be made.

Can a Security Guard Detain a Civilian?

In some states, it is perfectly legal for security guards to detain offenders, at least under certain circumstances. For instance, in the state of Texas, it’s allowable for a security guard to detain someone when the guard has witnessed some kind of felony offense. Guards are also allowed to detain suspects when there is probable cause to believe that some type of offense has already happened. As soon as is reasonably possible after the detention, the security guard is obliged to contact the appropriate authorities, so that they can come and make the actual arrest.

The state of California also allows individuals to be detained in some situations. In California, guards must complete a training class that focuses on arrest powers, and the guard must then score a perfect 100% on the final exam for that course. Assuming that the security guard passes the course in this manner, he/she would then receive a license that allows for detainment in the execution of regular duties.

What Happens If an Event Turns Violent?

When a situation becomes violent, your security guards will be at risk, and that means this is a clear-cut situation where the authorities should be contacted. As an example, when an intruder reaches the point where he/she becomes physically abusive, or if that person is armed, it should fall to local law enforcement officers to intervene and prevent loss of life, or any kind of harm to citizens and security guards.

It’s also very important to maintain contact with your security team as the situation is unfolding, particularly if it looks as though it may become violent. An armed robbery, for instance, is one of those events where you would need to stay in constant touch with your security team. By keeping in touch with your security team at their checkpoints, you will at least be well-informed about the situation, so that when authorities arrive, you can brief them accurately. 

Legal Limitations and When You Should Call the Police

The proper authorities should always be called whenever it seems possible that a situation might turn violent, or when there is a blatant crime in progress. Even if your security guard undertakes to make a Citizen’s Arrest, police should be called to make the formal arrest, so that the weight of the law can be enforced if a crime has actually been committed.

It’s always a good idea to contact local authorities whenever there seems to be a risk of injury or violence in a situation. These individuals are paid and trained to protect citizens, and they are the first line of defense when crimes are being committed, or when private citizens’ welfare is at risk. For any serious crime or potentially violent situation, there is no doubt that local law enforcement should be contacted as soon as possible so that they can provide protection for all concerned. 

Final Thoughts on the Authority of Security Officers

While both employees and security guards are legally able to make citizens arrests based on current laws, you should make sure that they are all aware of the legal consequences for their actions. You should also make sure they are aware that it’s always best to contact the local authorities when a crime is in progress or when a situation might become violent. It’s up to you to make sure that your employees and your security guards have the necessary tools for contacting local authorities at any time of the day because crime can strike at a moment’s notice.

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