Friday, February 3, 2012

The Role of Private Security

      The safety of the community is dependent on the efficiency, reliability, and commitment of each police department. Or is it? A growing trend in communities across the nation is the increased presence of private security officers. Although similar in title, these two occupations have different mandates governed by public and private interests. Last semester, I did a paper on this very topic and found it extremely interesting. With that being said, I would like to share my findings and expand on them.         

     Being criminal justice majors, we are all familiar with the police officer occupation. From either personal knowledge or taking CJS 207 - Contemporary Policing in America, we know that becoming a police officer is a very selective and lengthy process. To demonstrate the qualifications of a police officer, I will recap the standard process from prospect to rookie. In short, recruits are selected after successfully passing physical fitness tests, background checks, psychological tests, and interviews. Once selected, recruits are sent to the police academy where they are taught different aspects of the job. After successfully completing the academy, they return to their department to begin work, where they may eventually move up the ranks. Additionally, officers may be required to participate in further training throughout their careers. As you can see, a high level of professionalism and expertise is expected from police officers by the general public.

     Security officers, on the other hand, receive comparatively little training prior to their first assignment. On average, a security officer only receives six hours of training! Personally, I find these figures alarming because it is estimated that there are about 2.5 security officers for every police officer in the United States. Despite the difference in training, security and police officers are almost indistinguishable. Both are armed, patrol in squad cars, and wear uniforms. Something I found interesting, that was argued by Rick Rudell, is that an increased presence of of security officers indicates that a government is slowly losing control of its police monopoly. To say that all security officers lack proper training is a generalization that cannot be applied to everyone. It should be noted that many security officers are ex-military and off duty police officers that possess highly specialized skills.

     With time permitting, I would highly recommend reading this article. Using empirical research and data, authors of the article argue that security officers play a larger role in crime fighting and prevention than the actual police.

     A major criticism of the private sector is that they lack bureaucratic restraints and are only motivated to act based upon their employers' interests. This means that if they witness something illegal, they are not required to act. If security officers do decide to act, they are not required to do so with fairness or even legally. Certain aspects of due process may be neglected or overlooked. The only thing I can think of that keeps them from abusing their power are costly court cases from being sued. Currently talking about ethics in class, I feel that this topic is very fitting. Since private security officers and public police officers have similar objectives, should we hold them to the same standard?

Works cited:
Ruddell, R., Thomas, M., & Pattern, R. (2010). Examining the roles of he police and private

            security officers in urban social control. International Journal of Police Science &

            Management, 13(1), 54-66.

Walker, S., & Katz, C. (2011). The police in america. (7 ed., pp. 63-169). New York, NY: Mc-

            Graw Hill.


  1. Very interesting piece. I think we can all agree that the criminal justice system is operating beyond its intended capacity. With this huge increase in capacity, I think we can expect to see this sort of injustice becoming more common. Additionally, private security is a huge business and a very lucrative business. Similarly, while overcrowding in prisons continues, we see an increase in private prisons as well. Both of these privatizations in the criminal justice fields will open the flood gates for corruption and abuse. I hate to say it, but this is certainly an entity that needs to be regulated a bit more. With the increased regulation, we should expect these people to act and carry themselves in a professional, lawful manner.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article on private security. I never realized that security officers only received six hours of training. They should at least have a couple of weeks of training since they have some similarities with police officers. I have a couple of friends who are security officers and they love what they do. They look like real police officers with uniforms and guns, except they don't do a lot of work compared with police officers. So maybe thats why they don't need a lot of training because they don't do much, and its not worth the money. But overall it was a very interesting topic.