In the United States, there are a lot of differences between a regular cop and a private security officer. A lot of these differences really stem from union protections. Police unions are very stringent regarding the responsibilities of the typical private security officer.
It’s very easy to see why unions are so territorial. After all, they don’t want police officers that they represent to somehow, some way, get replaced by private employees. They’re not doing a good job as unions if that were to happen. Also, they’re not getting paid top dollar for them to turn a blind eye to such changes.
This is why they lobbied legislators as well as city councils very intensively to create artificial distinctions between private security patrol services and regular police officers. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “What’s up with the term ‘artificial differences’ or ‘artificial distinctions’?”
Well, I didn’t say that in passing. It is the most accurate way to frame the issue. Because if we’re just talking about training and the ability to use firearms and dangerous force, there is really not much difference between a private security patrol service and the typical cop. The typical police training period in the United States is about six months.
In certain jurisdictions of the United States, private security patrol service members are actually ex-cops, ex-military, or people who have gone through several training processes. In terms of quality, you’re basically getting the same thing.
Now, I know that a lot of police union members may take exception to that claim, but as far as I can see, that’s the truth. So, the issue here, really, involves artificial distinctions. It’s definitely not involving the actual skills, capacities and capabilities of private security officers compared to cops. They’re basically on the same level.
So, what are the differences?
Authority to Use Force
The first key distinction between a cop and a private security officer is the authority to use force. Please understand that if you hire a private security officer for your neighborhood association to do neighborhood watch or to go on regular patrols through your area, you can’t have a false sense of confidence and security. You really can’t.
Why? At the end of the day, these individuals are not authorized by the law to use lethal force. They can only do it if they felt their lives were threatened. In other words, they can only use lethal force in self-defense.
Well, you may be thinking this is a good thing because they’re out on a patrol, and somebody does something threatening, and they have to defend themselves.
Well, think about it, the legal right to use deadly force to defend oneself actually applies across the board. You have that right. This is not something that’s special to security guards.
This is a big deal because you’re paying these people extra money to roam around, but at the end of the day, they’re not really able to exercise force outside of the legal authorization you have. Do you see the disconnect? Do you see the issue?
Private Security Patrol Officer’s Main Role is to Observe
At the end of the day, whether you hire an armed security guard or an unarmed one, legally speaking, they can only observe. In other words, somebody may be beating up your child and possibly be on that person’s way to killing your child, and this person doesn’t have to lift a finger.
Now, there is legal jurisprudence regarding the use of deadly force to protect somebody else’s life. But given the fact that the typical private security officer company is a private company, they might have cold feet regarding that particularly important decision.
How come? Well, if they intervene too forcefully, they may be sued. They may have a serious lawsuit on their hands because the suspect got injured. It may well turn out that the person that they thought who was the offender actually may have a good reason to behave the way they did. In other words, there are just so many things that could go wrong as far as being sued goes.
And, as you probably already know, if you’re dealing with any kind of private company in the United States, they’re more likely on the conservative side as far as potential legal liabilities go. This is a serious problem for neighborhood associations.
So, to make sure that everybody knows what to expect, generally speaking, private security patrol service officers are only required to observe and report. In other words, if you see that scenario of someone beating up somebody’s young daughter, the security officer should get on the phone with the police via 911 asap. That’s the best they can do.
Well, you may be thinking, “Doesn’t this make private security officers completely worthless? What’s the difference between them and tits on a boar? They’re both worthless.”
No, they’re not. Because when you hire private security officers, they are trained to be at the right place at the right time. They may not be able to whip out their guns and take care of business, but they know where to be and direct police resources to that necessary spot so that help gets there sooner rather than later.
Make no mistake, when it comes to life or death issues, a minute is a lifetime. So, at the end of the day, this is protection that is definitely worth it.
Another key benefit you get from private security is a sense of control. Technically, you can rely on the city, county, or even state authorities in your area to deliver security. But if many parts of your town are prone to crime or there are roaming criminals around, none of these options are reassuring.
What are the cops going to do? Show up when the crime has already been done? They can only take photos of the crime scene, dust for fingerprints, and call you (if at all) once they have a lead. No wonder more and more homeowners associations are opting for more peace of mind in the form of private security patrols and monitoring services.