You might be considering hiring security guards to keep everyone safe at your company, but first, you need to know exactly what they can and can’t do.
While your security guards should be trained, and while there might be variations in what guards can and can’t do depending on the state you’re located in, it’ll be much better for you and your company if you know what they’re able to do when they’re on the job.
What Security Guards Can and Can’t Do?
It Depends on the Jurisdiction
What your security guards are able to do depends on if they have jurisdiction, and jurisdiction comes from probable cause. Your security guard needs to have a reason to detain a person, so they need to have observed some sort of behavior that would warrant suspicion. For example, if they notice someone shoplifting.
As for what your guards can do at this point, it also depends on their judgment. They can use handcuffs, but only if they believe it’s necessary. They can also pat down the suspect or request an ID at this point. All of this needs to be done in a “reasonable manner” though, which means that your guard cannot use the handcuffs improperly, use foul language, verbal threats, slurs, or place the subject in any pain.
They Can’t Stall
A security guard must only detain someone for a reasonable amount of time, which means only enough time to conduct a reasonable investigation or to wait until the police arrive. It’s not considered reasonable to stall so that the arrival of the police is extended too far.
A security guard is able to protect property, meaning that they are able to keep both a location and the personnel safe. This means that they’re able to ask people to move on, leave, or detail people if they believe a crime has been committed.
A security guard cannot also pursue someone outside of the physical property if the person runs along through the parking lot, for instance. Even though the guard might want to catch the person, it is outside of their jurisdiction when the person leaves the location.
They (Generally) Cannot Arrest People
Your security guard generally will not be able to arrest people legally, not unless they see the person actually in the process of committing a crime. This is a key point: they must have probable cause.
If your guard makes a false arrest, or an unjustified arrest, your company could be sued for a false arrest. And even when your security guard does see evidence of a crime being committed, it’s best that they always contact the authorities to be sure that the arrest is fully legal.
It Depends on the State
In terms of detaining a suspect, it does depend on the state. They can detain a suspect on the grounds of their jurisdiction in every state, but only in certain states can they detail people in public areas, and only then if they believe a felony has been committed. It will also depend on the law in the specific state whether they require additional training to do this.
In the Case of Violence
If a situation does turn violent and your security guard will be at risk, this means that authorities should be contacted right away. It’s not the job of your security guard to apprehend a violent suspect. It’s best to leave that to the police and for your guard to stay in contact with the rest of the security team.
Use of Force
Your security guard is like police in that they are not allowed to use force first. Any guard must approach any situation nonviolently through verbal communication first. And when they are speaking, it is necessary for them not to use any inappropriate language or slurs.
The only instance where force may be permissible is when the guard’s life or the lives of another person might be in danger. Otherwise, the local police should be called to handle any situation.
Your security guards are there to ensure the safety of your personnel and your company, but what can they actually do, and what should they avoid doing? In order to help you plan and strategize the best for your company, it’s important that you know what your guards are capable of and when it’s best for you to call the local police. This knowledge will help you keep your employees, customers and premises safe in the long term.