A security guard (or security officer) is usually a privately and formally employed person who is paid to protect property, assets, or people.
Often, security officers are uniformed and act to protect property by maintaining a high visibility presence to deter illegal and inappropriate actions, observing (either directly, through patrols, or by watching alarm systems or video cameras)) for signs of crime, fire or disorder; then taking action and reporting any incidents to their client and emergency as appropriate.
Since at least the middle Ages in Europe, the term watchman was more commonly applied to this function. This term was carried over to North America where it was interchangeable with night-watchman until both terms were replaced with the modern security-based titles.
In United Kingdom as a requirement of the Private Security Industry Act 2001, the UK now requires all contract security guards to have a valid Security Industry Authority license. The license must be displayed when on duty, although a dispensation may be granted for store detectives, bodyguards and others who need to operate without being identified as a security guard. This dispensation is not available to Vehicle Immobilizers. Licenses are valid for three years and require the holders to undergo formal training, and are also to pass mandatory Criminal Records Bureau checks. Licenses for Vehicle Immobilizers are valid for one year. Armed guarding and guarding with a weapon are illegal.
Manned guarding activity includes any of the following:
Guarding premises against unauthorised access or occupation, against outbreaks of disorder or against damage;
guarding property against destruction or damage, against being stolen or against being otherwise dishonestly taken or obtained;
Guarding one or more individuals against assault or against injuries that might be suffered in consequence of the unlawful conduct of others.
All of the above includes providing a physical presence, or carrying out any form of patrol or surveillance, as to deter or otherwise discourage it from happening or to provide information, if it happens, about what has happened.
References to guarding premises against unauthorised access include being wholly or partly responsible for determining the suitability for admission to the premises of persons applying for admission. However, this does not include the activities of a person who exercises control over the persons allowed access to any premises to the extent only of securing, or checking, that persons allowed access have paid for admission or have invitations or passes allowing admission.
Who Needs a Licence?
A Security licence is required when manned guarding activity that does not fall under the descriptions of door supervision, close protection, cash and valuables in transit, or public space surveillance (CCTV) is undertaken. This applies only if your services are supplied for the purposes of or in connection with any contract to a consumer.
Two Types of Licence
There are two types of SIA licence:
A front line licence is required if undertaking licensable activity, other than key holding activities (this also covers undertaking non-front line activity). A front line licence is in the form of a credit card-sized plastic card that must be worn, subject to the licence conditions.
A non-front line licence is required for those who manage, supervise and/or employ individuals who engage in licensable activity, as long as front line activity is not carried out – this includes directors* or partners. A non-front line licence is issued in the form of a letter that also covers key holding activities.
Functions and duties
Many security firms and proprietary security departments practice the “detect, deter, observe and report” methodology. Security officers are not required to make arrests, but have the authority to make a citizen’s arrest, or otherwise act as an agent of law enforcement at the request of a police officer, sheriff, and others.
In addition to the methodology mentioned above, a private security officer’s primary duty is the prevention and deterrence of crime. Security personnel enforce company rules and can act to protect lives and property. In fact, they frequently have a contractual obligation to provide these actions. Security officers are often trained to perform arrest and control procedures (including handcuffing and restraints), operate emergency equipment, perform first aid, CPR, take accurate notes, write detailed reports, and perform other tasks as required by the contracted they are serving.
One major economic justification for security personnel is that insurance companies (particularly fire insurance carriers) will give substantial rate discounts to sites which have a 24-hour presence; for a high risk or high value venue, the discount can often exceed the money being spent on its security program.
This is because having security on site increases the odds that any fire will be noticed and reported to the local fire department before a total loss occurs. Also, the presence of security personnel (particularly in combination with effective security procedures) tends to diminish “shrinkage,” theft, employee misconduct and safety rule violations, property damage, or even sabotage. Many casinos hire security guards to protect money when transferring it from the casino to the casino’s bank.
Security personnel may also perform access control at building entrances and vehicle gates; meaning, they ensure that employees and visitors display proper passes or identification before entering the facility. Security officers are often called upon to respond to minor emergencies (lost persons, lockouts, dead vehicle batteries, etc.) and to assist in serious emergencies by guiding emergency responders to the scene of the incident, helping to redirect foot traffic to safe locations, and by documenting what happened on an incident report.
Patrolling is usually a large part of a security officer’s duties. Often these patrols are logged by use of a guard tour patrol system, which require regular patrols. The most commonly used form used to be mechanical clock systems that required a key for manual punching of a number to a strip of paper inside with the time pre-printed on it.
Recently, electronic systems have risen in popularity due to their light weight, ease of use, and downloadable logging capabilities Regular patrols are, however, becoming less accepted as an industry standard, as it provides predictability for the would-be criminal, as well as monotony for the security officer on duty.
Random patrols are easily programmed into these systems, allowing greater freedom of movement and unpredictability. Global positioning systems are also easing their way into the market as a more effective means of tracking officer movement and patrol behavior.
Although security officers differ greatly from police officers, military personnel, federal agents/officers, and the like, Australia the United States has a growing proportion of security personnel that have former police or military experience, including senior management personnel. On the other hand, some security officers, young people in particular, use the job as practical experience to use in applying to law enforcement agencies.
Types of security personnel and companies
Security personnel are classified as either of the following
“in-house” or “proprietary” (i.e. employed by the same company or organization they protect, such as a mall, theme park, or casino); formerly often called works police or security police in the United Kingdom
“contract,” working for a private security company which protects many locations.
“Public Security,” “Private Police Officers,” or security police
“Private Patrol Officers”, vehicle patrol officers that protect multiple client premises.
“Parapolice”, aggressive firms that routinely engage in criminal investigation and arrests.
Industry terms for various security personnel include: security guard, security agent, security officer, safety patrol, private police, company police, security enforcement officer and public safety. Other job titles in the security industry include bouncer, bodyguards, executive protection agent loss prevention, alarm responder, hospital security officer, mall security officer, crime prevention officer, private patrol officer, and private patrol operator.
There is a marked difference between persons performing the duties historically associated with watchmen and persons who take a more active role in protecting persons and property. The former, often called “guards,” are taught the mantra “observe and report,” are minimally trained, and not expected to deal with the public or confront criminals.
The latter are often highly trained, sometimes armed depending on contracts agreed upon with clientele, and are more likely to interact with the general public and to confront the criminal element. These employees tend to take pride in the title “Security Officer” or “Protection Officer” and disdain the label of “guard.