What Security Guards Can and Can’t Do: Rights & Laws

July 28, 2021
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Community Action Security

What Security Guards Can and Can't Do

Many individuals considering becoming security guards, as well as those considering hiring them, often ask what security guards can and can’t do. Community Action Security is here to answer your questions surrounding private security laws, so you can make an informed decision when hiring a security firm.

Disclaimer: We are going to cover general guidelines for security guard behavior. The laws governing what private security employees are allowed to do can be complex and circumstantial. Consult an attorney, HR professional, law enforcement, or give us a call if you have specific concerns or questions.

Security vs. Law Enforcement

For those wondering, “Is security considered law enforcement?” it’s important to note that, typically, a security guard’s legal powers are the same as those of a regular citizen.

While both law enforcement and security guards represent authority figures that maintain rules and regulations, the legal scope of what security guards can do can vary based on three different classifications:

  • The officer must follow security guard rules akin to those of ordinary citizens.
  • Local governing institutions have given them additional security guard rights.
  • The security guard can go above standard security guard laws if they operate both as security personnel and as a law enforcement officer.

In general, there are no regulations that expressly regulate private security guards. However, the Private Security Advisory Council of the United States Department of Justice’s Law Enforcement Assistance Administration published a brief study in 1976 on the sources of legal authority for private security personnel.

In short, concerning what security guards can and can’t do, they typically must follow the same laws as other civilians.

Can Security Guards Touch You?

Protecting a location and the people within is the primary duty of a security officer. In performing their duties, they can move foot traffic along to prevent loitering, mandate that someone leaves the premises, and in certain circumstances, conduct an arrest, which can result in physical contact.

However, while the use of reasonable force is allowable when restraining a suspect, it is prudent for security officers to measure their behavior. For example, if the security guard engages with a suspected criminal and uses excessive force, it can result in damages with far-reaching ramifications. Likewise, if a security guard goes beyond their legal limits by detaining, questioning, or using force against someone who isn’t a threat to themselves or anyone else, the guard and the company they work for may face severe consequences.

Can Security Guards Arrest You?

Security guards are extremely limited in their authority to conduct a search of a person’s belongings.

Typically, if an individual refuses to give consent, security guards do not have the authority to conduct a forced search of their property. While this may seem too restrictive regarding what security guards can and can’t do, the officer can always refuse admittance to the location if the individual is non-compliant. If the guard suspects that the person may be hiding a dangerous item or illegal substance, they should contact local law enforcement immediately. Conversely, if the security guard is witness to a weapon, they can initiate a citizen’s arrest.

Note: security guards have the legal authority to search property left unattended in suspicious circumstances. They can also search an unconscious person’s property if they are attempting to identify the unconscious person, and it is in the best interests of that person’s health.

Community Action Provides Industry Leading Training

At Community Action Security, we pride ourselves on the training that our guards receive. When you secure one of our protection solutions, you won’t have to worry about what security guards can and can’t do, as our staff has undergone rigorous training.

Whether you’re looking for guards to patrol properties on foot or by vehicle, they focus exclusively on one property and provide meticulous service.

If you want customized security guard services, we’ll be happy to work with you to find the ideal solution. Our knowledgeable account representatives will provide you with straightforward answers to your questions. Send us a message via our contact page, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours!

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