Businesses small and large will hire private security for a multitude of reasons. Some reasons include deterring threats and crimes, while others may include to deter trespassing and burglary. Individuals may even hire security guards to maintain peace at a special event or hire them to safeguard their homes. Whatever the reason may be, there are things that security guards can and can’t legally do.
Where Does a Security Guard Get Their Authorization?
In the general sense, a private security officer has no more legal rights than an average citizen. This can change depending on the level of their authorized power.
- Private security officers limited to citizen powers
- Security guards who have special authorized power by their local governing institutions
- Security officers who are also law enforcement officers
So What Can They Do?
Remember, security officers are NOT police officers. Security Officers are employed by a private security company and are contracted out to client properties. They cannot impersonate a police officer or say that they have the same legal rights at one.
- A security guard can make a citizen’s arrest, however, this only applies if their grounds of suspicion are reasonable and valid. The situation must meet certain legal requirements. If not, the citizen can press charges against the security guard, the private security company, and the client. The security guard can prevent an individual from fleeing after performing a criminal act though they can only do so until the police arrives.
- A guard can protect in the event of a person causing harm to others, themselves, or to the property.
- A security guard can use a level of force limited to a certain degree by law. This means that they are only acceptable when necessary.
- Searches can only happen with consent. If you are unconscious or not present, and the possession is unidentified, then they can search the item. Although they can’t search you if you’re suspected of shoplifting, they can detain you until the police arrives. Bag checks at private venues are also legal as attendees consent to bag checks upon entry. If an attendee refuses to have their belongings checked, then the guard is within their power to turn the attendee away.
- Security officers can carry weapons. However, they need to be registered and licensed to carry them. This includes batons, firearm, pepper spray, etc.