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What Security Guards Can and Can’t Do 

Security guards have a lot in common with police officers. They usually wear uniforms, they often carry weapons (including firearms, in some cases), they protect people, property, and are seen as figures of authority, law, and order. However, a security guard is not a police officer. He or she is not a public servant. Instead, he works as a private citizen with limitations as to what actions he can and can’t carry out. This can mean that the legalities as to a security guard’s actions often become blurred. The following discusses the parameters within which qualified and reputable security guards are governed by law.

What Security Guards Can and Can’t Do

  •     Security guards can…
  •     Security guards can’t…

Security guards can…

While there are some slight variations according to individual state laws, in general, a security guard can do the following:
  • Protect property: One of the most common roles security guards carry out is the protection of property. In such situations a guard is, in many cases, provided with delegated responsibilities in order to do this, allowing them to keep both the location and personnel on-site safe. While they can’t carry out illegal activities, they can ask people to move on (stop loitering), leave a premises, and even detain an individual if they have probable cause to suspect that a crime has been committed.
This might be applicable, for instance, in the case of a security guard patrolling a retail store where they’ve witnessed a shoplifting incident take place.
  • Detain a person: Once again, if a security guard has reason to believe that a crime has taken place they’re allowed to detain an individual in a reasonable manner. This means that they can, if the situation demands it, use handcuffs, carry out a pat-down to determine if a weapon is being carried, and prevent the person from leaving the scene while waiting for the police to arrive.
While it’s generally permitted for a security guard to detain a person within the grounds of their jurisdiction (i.e. the area in which they’ve been employed to patrol), in certain states they can also do so in any public area if they believe a felony has been committed, and to hold them until local law enforcement arrives. Dependent on local laws, additional training may be required in order to legally carry this out (for example, in the state of California).
  •  Make a citizen’s arrest: A security guard can arrest a person under the same rights as every citizen has if a crime is witnessed and to ensure public safety. When such an arrest is carried out a guard is obliged to call the police as soon as is reasonably practicable. If the person arrested has a weapon then the guard is entitled to take it away.
  • Use reasonable force: If, while carrying out their duties, a security guard is required to use force against a person to ensure the safety of others and/or property, then it has to be reasonable and justified. In the same manner as a police officer, a security guard would be expected to use other means, such as effective verbal communication, before resorting to force.

Security guards can’t…

  • Detain people for an unlimited amount of time: They do not have the power to hold people indefinitely. A reasonable length of time would be considered how long it takes for the police to arrive or, in some cases, to carry out their investigations (such as if a shoplifting offense has been carried out).
  • Use unreasonable force: To include, but not restricted to, the application of pain, choking, improper use of handcuffs, threatening and/or abusive language, and discrimination.
Many security guards wear body cams to record evidence that they’ve acted legally and within the law when confronting individuals. They should also complete detailed and accurate reports following any incident. For those who’re legally entitled to carry a firearm, the deployment and use of this should, once again, be proportionate to the severity of any crime involved and the safety of the people/persons they’re guarding and any other people in the vicinity. 

Fast Guard Provide Strict Guidance as to What Security Guards Can and Can’t Do

Globally-renowned security provider, Fast Guard Service, is well versed in the legalities of security in each state of the USA and other countries around the world. Their industry-leading status means that when you task Fast Guard with your security needs you can rest assured that both individuals and businesses are wholly covered by the law and that their security guards are working within their legal remit. Fast Guard also offers professional and training of security guards To discuss your security needs in complete confidentiality, visit // to schedule an appointment.