Securing an individual, family, organization, or property can be a costly endeavor. As with many business decisions, this becomes a question of ROI (Return on Investment). When contemplating these options, the decisions need to be made based on objective reasoning. Of the various pros and cons, the most evident tends to be bottom line cost. However, the end user’s exposure to liability has the potential to be the greatest cost overall.
The Power to Arrest is Wonderful, But…
A peace officer’s powers and duties are granted by statute; as such, he or she is sworn to act as an official representative of the government body to which he or she is commissioned to serve. A peace officer’s fundamental duties are serving the community by safeguarding lives and property and protecting the population – as a whole.
In contrast, a licensed security firm and its officers are contracted by an individual or property owner, and as such, security officers have more flexibility and authority on private property than that of on or off-duty law enforcement personnel.
The 4th And 14th Amendments…
Without clear probable cause a Peace Officer cannot question someone regarding their behavior, if they live someplace specific, or what they’re doing without potentially violating the person’s constitutional rights (4th and/or 14th Amendments). Should he/she cross these lines the peace officer, his/her department, and/or the property owner who hired the officer(s) can become the subject of civil-rights litigation.
Conversely, a Security Officer represents an individual, property or business owner. Since these entities are private and not a government body, the security officer has the freedom to interact with anyone on that property without the Constitutional burden of “Unreasonable search and seizure” or “Equal protection of the law”.
Good Cop, Bad Cop, Overworked Cop…
Unfortunately, peace officers working in an off-duty-part-time capacity have a tendency to treat that job differently than they do their “day job”. This type of behavior has unfortunately become the standard to which many, even great peace officers, are judged. Some officers are stressed-out by the 40-plus hours they put in before the part-time work. Others work strictly for the money. Some look down on the average “security guard”, and see security tasks or duties as “beneath” them.
Regardless of how a peace officer may choose to rationalize this attitude, the tasks and duties required while securing and individual or private property can differ greatly from that of everyday police work. In short, security work remains safety-focused, while emphasizing customer service rather than community service.
Conflicting Orders and the Tie Goes to…
Due in part to the specific “General Orders” of each police department and the unavoidable legal ramifications that come with working off-duty-part-time, a peace officer working in this capacity is either less likely or forbidden from getting involved with certain disturbances. Not only could this part-time work potentially affect his/her “day job”, but it could also open him/her up to civil or other legal issues a sworn law enforcement officer is typically protected.
Security personnel can carry out securing private property with far less “red tape”. Although still bound by laws and answering to a third party – their firm, the security firm is charged with executing the safety and security of the client in a manner conducive to their needs and industry. In short, they answer to the client, not a bureaucratic entity concerned with liability, public opinion, etc.
In Safety and Security, More is Better…
When it comes to deterring crime, command presence is king! Since the cost of a single off-duty Peace Officer typically exceeds twice that of a Security Officer, a client’s manpower can be increased while maintaining the same cost.
All Laws are not Created Equal…
Civil issues are always a concern when using off-duty law enforcement. Peace officers are trained, predominantly, in the realm of criminal law. Property rights, rental and lease agreements, employment disputes, etc. are all civil matters to which sworn peace officers are trained to avoid.
On the other hand, private security firms and their officers, although lacking the extended powers of arrest of a sworn law enforcement officer, can take reasonable and lawful action in both civil and criminal matters.
Liability Lurks Around Every Corner…
Legal liability and insurance are a big concern for business owners and most individuals. Unfortunately, legal liability is always increased when a business or property owner employs manpower based security; however, private security firms are intended for public sector use and regulated as such, while off-duty peace officers and not.
With this in mind, private security firms are required by state law to maintain specific levels of liability insurance and bonding. This insurance acts as an invisible barrier between the property or business owner and any civil or criminal action resulting from negligent or improper action by the security firm or its officers. Unfortunately, any individual, property owner, or business owner who employs off-duty peace officers receives no such protection.
The Courts Have Spoken Loud and Clear…
For decades, police departments across the nation have been challenged in court for not providing fast enough response. In each and every case these courts, including the US Supreme Court, have been consistent in their rulings that police serve the public as a whole, not any specific individual.
- “What makes the City’s position particularly difficult to understand is that, in conformity to the dictates of the law, Linda did not carry any weapon for self-defense. Thus by a rather bitter irony she was required to rely for protection on the City of NY which now denies all responsibility to her.”
Riss v. New York
- “…a government and its agencies are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen…”
Warren v. District of Columbia
- “Law enforcement agencies and personnel have no duty to protect individuals from the criminal acts of others; instead their duty is to preserve the peace and arrest law breakers for the protection of the general public.”
Lynch v. N.C. Dept. of Justice