Private Persons Arrest

Although your normal responsibilities include the preventing of problems and observation of detail after an offense, there may be rare occasions when you consider it necessary to arrest. Every company in the private security industry has different policies about when and if you should arrest. If you don’t know your company’s policy, find out.

A security guard/proprietary private security officer’s legal powers to arrest are no greater than those of any other private citizen. An arrest made by such a private party is commonly known as a “citizen’s arrest.”

According to the Penal Code Section 834, “An arrest is taking a person into custody in a manner authorized by law.” Penal Code Section 834 also goes on to state that, “An arrest may be made by a peace officer or by a private person.”

Penal Code Section 837 specifies the conditions under which you, as a private person, may make an arrest. “A private person may arrest another.

  1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence.
  2. When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in his presence.
  3. When a felony has been, in fact, committed and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.”

In making your decision to arrest someone, you must first determine whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor.

Example of A Misdemeanor Offense

If you observed a person picking up a rock and throwing it through a plate glass window, that person could be arrested. Breaking a window is a misdemeanor offense and you know that he committed the offense because you saw the person do it.

On the other hand, consider this case: You hear a plate glass window break and rush to the front of the building only to see a group of teenagers laughing and milling around. Two of them point to one of the others and say, “He did it.” In this instance, you would not have grounds for an arrest. It appears an offense has been committed, but you did not actually see the person doing it.

Remember: To arrest someone for the commission of a misdemeanor, the offense must be:

  1. committed in your presence; or
  2. attempted in your presence!

Example of A Felony Offense

You are patrolling an apartment complex and you see an apartment door open. You look inside and see that the place has been burglarized. As you leave the apartment, you see two men carrying large bundles of assorted valuables to a waiting van. They see you and speed up. You call for them to halt, but they load up the van and are in the process of getting into the front seat. You are justified in questioning these men.

On the other hand, consider this: You are told by an apartment dweller that he was just burglarized and you see two men walking towards a van with the motor running. The men look around suspiciously but are carrying nothing. You should get descriptions and observe and report.

Remember: To arrest someone for committing a felony, 1) the felony must have been committed and 2) you must have reasonable cause for believing that the person you are arresting actually committed the felony.