The Security Guard/Proprietary Private Security Officer’s Legal Responsibilities and Liabilities

Actions based on poor judgement can lead to legal problems for both you and your employer. You must, by law, avoid certain actions. Legal responsibilities and liabilities that affect you are presented in this section.

Criminal Liabilities

Who Has the Power to Arrest?

The authority to arrest is given to all private persons. A security guard/proprietary private security officer has the same power to arrest as any other private person. However, because the security officer wears a uniform and badge, this can lead to misunderstanding and abuse.

What is an Arrest?

An arrest is a form of lawful control by one person over the actions or movements of another. An arrest is taking a person into custody IN A CASE and IN THE MANNER authorized by law. An arrest may be made by a peace officer or a private person (citizen’s arrest).

What is Criminal Liability?

Crimes are generally defined in penal statutes of a state, or the ordinances of local cities or counties. All persons are expected to obey these laws. Anyone who violates a criminal law is subject to a fine, and/or a term in jail, or prison, depending on the type of crime. The potential for punishment as a result of violating a criminal law is called CRIMINAL LIABILITY. Some acts by security guard/proprietary private security officers for which criminal liability is possible include:

  • Intimidation: Threatening physical harm or otherwise frightening people when they do not cooperate or confess to a crime.
  • Excessive Physical Force: Where an arrest is made, the law allows only the use of physical force, which is reasonable or necessary to restrain the suspect if he/she is resisting, in order to make the arrest. Where more force is used than that which the law allows, the arresting party is said to be using “excessive force” and may be held criminally as well as civilly liable. An example of excessive force is the discharge of a firearm in shooting a suspect in order to protect personal property. By law, deadly force is allowed only to protect lives.
  • Use of Unauthorized Deadly Weapons: Becoming registered as a security guard DOES NOT entitle a security guard to carry a weapon. Some weapons such as knives with blades longer then 2 inches or switch-blade knives, brass knuckles, nunchakus, or sawed-off shotguns cannot be carried by security guards. Security guards cannot carry a gun and/or a baton unless they have the additional exposed firearm permit and/or baton certificate. If they carry the gun concealed they must also have a concealed weapons permit issued by their local law enforcement agency.Proprietary private security officers are unarmed and cannot carry a gun or a baton. Proprietary private security officers cannot carry any deadly weapons. Proprietary private security officer cannot carry weapons such as switchblade knives or knife’s with blades over 2 inches in length, brass knuckles, nunchakus, batons, or guns as they are considered deadly weapons.
  • Unlawful Use of Defensive Weapons: Security guards cannot carry handguns and batons unless authorized by the Bureau. Security guards are allowed to carry an exposed firearm and/or baton only after the security guard completes the Bureau recognized training and the appropriate permits are issued.
  • False Arrest:
    • Misdemeanor Arrest – a private person making a misdemeanor arrest may be found criminally liable for a false arrest if the arrest is made and the arresting party did not actually observe the suspect commit the misdemeanor in his/her presence.
    • Felony Arrest – a private person making a felony arrest may be found criminally liable for a false arrest if the arrest is made or caused to be made by others and the arresting party does not have reasonable cause to believe that the person arrested committed the felony.