3 Questions To Ask When Hiring Private Retail Security Guards

Private retail security guards are a worthwhile investment for a commercial enterprise experiencing a high volume of theft or property crime. Different states across the U.S. provide guards with varying levels of power when they are patrolling within the borders of the retail store, and these range from short-term detention to arrest. 

Due to the nuanced nature of the laws governing security guard service, contracting with a specialty firm helps minimize the chances of an investigation going too far before local law enforcement is involved. Always review a few basic points when researching private retail security options and then rely on in-person interviews and a contract review to make a final decision on which business to choose.

How are guards obtained? 

Retail security guards may be recruited directly and then move through a security firm training program focused on the legal nuances of working as a guard, use of force limitations, allowed detention, developing a case, and coordinating with local law enforcement. Some security services bypass aspects of this by relying on off-duty police and sheriff duties as personnel. Certain retailers may also work directly with an officer, a group of officers, or the law enforcement agency itself to negotiate a continued presence of officers. 

Do the guards have arrest powers?

When employing off-duty officers, the need for certain training outside of company-specific policies is reduced, and some policies may change as off-duty law enforcement personnel retain powers of arrest in most municipalities. For example, off-duty Cambridge, Massachusetts police officers can arrest a suspect when observing a crime in progress or to reasonably prevent a crime, according to department policies and procedures.

In some states, citizen arrest powers can allow a security guard who is not a sworn law enforcement officer to detain a person when a crime is committed. Other states also provide for temporary detention in lieu of arrest. Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure 215 highlights guards can detain a person short-term, or less than 60 minutes, to review a case. Often this policy is used only to hold individuals while waiting for law enforcement officers to arrive and take over an investigation, and it is not an arrest. 

It's important to know the authority the agents of a security service have before signing a contract, particularly if the loss prevention objectives of the business include arrests.

What is the business responsibility?

An additional reason to know the parameters of security guard power is liability. By knowing what is allowed, the retailer can monitor to ensure the appropriate measures are taken during an investigation and address any inappropriate actions with the firm. While the security service should maintain its own liability and business insurance policies, the store's reputation and financial security are also on the line when lawsuits related to an arrest are possible. Employees and contractors of a high-quality retail guard agency should always balance the store's needs and security policies with legal requirements and safety concerns.

Contact a company that offers private retail security guards to learn more.