Difference Between Security Officer and Security Guard

February 17, 2023
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Community Action Security

Security vs. Police: Which One Do You Need?

The decision to hire security protection for commercial businesses and events is on the rise. Choosing between security vs. police can be difficult, depending on your unique needs or a specific situation. Whether you’re considering hiring security for a commercial property or private event, it’s important to know who to hire: private security vs. police? While they may seem similar in their job function, there are substantial differences to keep in mind when determining your security needs. We’ll explain everything you need to know about a security guard vs. police officer, security officer vs. guard, and more throughout this guide.

What is the Difference Between a Security Officer and a Security Guard?

What’s the difference between a security guard vs. security officer? Did you even know there was a difference? Security officers and security guards might appear similar in name, but they are two distinct roles with different responsibilities. The role of a security guard is to perform regular daily security duties. Security guards usually stay at specific checkpoints or entryways such as doors, gates, and other areas that require protection. A security guard typically works under the security officer, and they often stay in one location but will sometimes be required to patrol an area. Security guards are not required to have high levels of experience, as their main role is to report any suspicious activity to higher-ups and patrol a location or area to deter criminal activity.

Security officers, on the other hand, are typically in a more managerial role with more responsibilities than security guards. Security officers are responsible for training and managing security guards and running the security at a location. They assign tasks to security guards and tend to be much more mobile, rotating through different stations and checkpoints to assess the security status of an entire area. Security officers have more responsibility and are required to have better judgment, tact, and experience than security guards.

Is Security Considered Law Enforcement?

Is security law enforcement? Security officers and guards are considered private citizens and are not allowed to call themselves law enforcement — they are bound by the regulations and laws of the people they serve for private businesses. Security officers represent individuals and private businesses and respond to criminal activity on the property they’re assigned to. However, they don’t have any authority to detain an individual in most jurisdictions since they are not considered law enforcement.

What’s the Difference Between Private Security vs. Law Enforcement?

There are multiple differences between private security and law enforcement, including:

  • Private security has more authority over private property than police. Private security firms represent the owners of the property, while police officers typically represent the state, county, or city that they work for, even when they’re off duty for an assignment with a private business or individual. Even off duty, police officers are required to follow the guidelines outlined in the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.
  • Police cannot stop anyone to ask if they live on the property. Police officers are not allowed to stop anyone to ask them questions, like whether they live on the property since these questions are considered violations of their constitutional rights and can lead to a civil lawsuit for the property owner or police. In fact, police officers are not legally allowed to speak to anyone unless they think criminal activity is happening. On the other hand, private security is allowed to interact with anyone on the property, as they represent a private business or individual rather than the government.
  • Off duty police often work extra duties after their normal work shift. Off duty police officers usually have additional duties to take care of after their normal work shift for the state, county, or city. For that reason, off duty police officers may not be as attentive or committed as security officers. Private security officers, on the other hand, tend to take the job more seriously since security is their full-time job.
  • Police are sensitive to legal issues. Police officers tend to be more susceptible to legal issues because their full-time job involves responding to criminal activity. That said, police officers are less likely to get involved in an altercation as the legal issues could impact their full-time job as a law enforcement officer. Any legal issues or civil lawsuits could cause a police officer to lose their job, so police officers are less likely to get involved than security officers are.
  • Off duty police are more expensive than private security. Off duty police officers tend to be much more expensive than private security officers. You can usually hire two private security officers for the same price as hiring one off duty police officer. With private security, you’ll have more people protecting your venue or property and keeping it safe for less money.
  • There are civil law issues. Police officers operate in the world of criminal activity, so they’re typically not allowed to get involved in civil matters, including things like lease agreements, property owner rights, and other civil issues. Police officers have no responsibility or knowledge of these civil issues, but private security officers do because they tend to work in both the criminal and civil realm. Private security officers are allowed to get involved with both criminal and civil matters.
  • Private security has arrest powers. Private security officers are allowed to arrest individuals for any federal, state, county, or city law that is violated in front of them, just like police officers can. Also, just like police officers, private security officers are allowed to arrest individuals for crimes they have committed, even they were not committed in the officer’s presence. Private security officers also have the same warrantless arrest powers as police officers.
  • Private security covers any liabilities with insurance. Private security companies hold certificates of insurance, also known as COI, which protect the client against criminal and civil lawsuits. On the other hand, police officers are not covered for any liabilities when working on private property.
  • Private security can protect all people on the client’s property. Private security can protect all individuals on a client’s property, and they have a responsibility to their client to protect all people on the property. Alternatively, police officers, are not responsible for taking action or acting on the behalf of a private citizen.

Is a Security Guard a Peace Officer?

A security guard nor a security officer is not the same as a peace officer. A security guard or officer is an individual that is paid by a private business or another individual to protect people, assets, and property. A peace officer is an individual that works in law enforcement and can be a sheriff, a state patrol, or a police officer.

Should You Hire Private Security vs. Police?

Hiring on-site security is typically a better choice than hiring a police officer, but your business should always evaluate your specific needs and situation to figure out what works best for your own facility. If you want to learn more about security vs. police security, contact Community Action Security today.

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