LIABILITY & LEGAL ASPECTS (Lesson 4 of 28)
While the Legislative Branch passes the laws and the Judicial Branch interprets and applies the laws, it is up to our State’s Executive Branch to enforce the laws.
The Governor of the State of California presides over the Executive Branch. Law enforcement and prosecutors work within the Executive Branch to ensure the laws are enforced.
Local police, county sheriffs, and State police (including the California Highway Patrol) are all comprised of sworn peace officers. These officers have all undergone rigorous training in police academies and have achieved a state certification (known as POST, or Peace Officer’s Standards and Training). Receipt of the POST certificate indicates an officer’s strong knowledge of the law.
You have no doubt heard this before, but it is worth repeating: as a security officer, your job is NOT to act as a police officer, but to apply your skills and knowledge as, perhaps, a more informed citizen than the average Joe or Jane. In California, the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS), which is part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, licenses security officers and is under the ultimate direction of the Governor. Thus, your security officer licensing is under the executive branch of our government.
On a criminal level, the law enforcement officer is the first person to determine whether or not the criminal justice system will be used. Law enforcement personnel decide whether to arrest someone for suspicion of committing a crime. If they decide to charge a person with a crime, the case is then presented to a prosecutor.
Prosecutors are attorneys working for the government who must determine whether or not a suspect should be prosecuted in the Superior Court for the crime alleged by the police. Prosecutors can be local City Attorneys, who enforce misdemeanors and other local ordinances, County District Attorneys, who enforce both misdemeanors and felonies, or State Attorneys General, who are responsible for handling all appeals on behalf of the prosecution and enforcing State regulations. An example of enforcement of State regulations is when a state license, such as a security officer license, is being revoked. This administrative matter is handled by the Attorney General’s office.
When a case is presented to the prosecutor by the police for filing, the prosecutor must then determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction of the suspect. If not, the case ends there and no further prosecution takes place. However, if charges are filed, then the case is presented to the Superior Court for trial. Of course, most cases are resolved by a plea bargain (a settlement) due to the high volume and overload of cases in our courts.
The prosecutor will represent the People of the State of California in the trial court and try to obtain a conviction of a criminal defendant. In the trial, a jury will hear evidence and testimony and decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
As a security officer, if you were involved in an arrest of a criminal suspect, you will likely be called upon by the prosecution as a witness on behalf of the People.
Your testimony may be crucial in obtaining a conviction. You will have the opportunity to learn more about how to testify in future training modules that have been deemed to be electives by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.