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February 01, 2015 3:17 PM | Gwin Coleman (Administrator)

By Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, CIPI, Certified MOAB Instructor

The determination to place deadly weapons in the hands of some security officers is enough to give some administrators cause to consider staying home from work.   But the sad truth is, in this world at war, with growing crime rates and increasing levels of violence, consideration for armed security is at our doorsteps.

In several locations, particularly those where law enforcement is not readily available, or high crime rates dictate harsh measures, officers are armed and have been for some time. While some of these officers are commissioned federal, state, or city law enforcement officers, others are proprietary or contract security officers.

Where are discussions on this controversial subject leading?  Is it time to re-consider the basic security philosophy of “observe and report,” leaving everything else to the police?  
In a quickly escalating violent confrontation, waiting for law enforcement to arrive may have deadly consequences.  Proliferating incidents continue to change the responsibilities of private security, but training and licensing requirements have not followed suit.

An important consideration for all institutions is the availability and timing of police response to serious incidents. On one hand, what are the liabilities imposed upon the institution for using excessive force or force applied by an unqualified practitioner, as opposed to the liability imposed by failing to provide adequate protection for patrons, staff, or even security officers?

We do not, as a rule of thumb, recommend the arming of private security, unless very stringent standards of hiring and training are met.  These standards must be equal to, if not in excess of, those required for police officers.  Placing deadly weapons in the hands of any individual opens up a broad spectrum of concerns.
Consideration should certainly be given to less-lethal or non-lethal weapons.  If only a firearm is issued to an armed officer, the officer has limited choices during a violent confrontation.  Less than deadly alternatives should include electronic stun guns/weapons, tasers, chemical agents (mace or pepper spray), expandable batons, hand-irons, or other restraints.  All arming options come with important training implications.

As you might imagine, the decision to arm involves a complex array of considerations.  What are the standards for qualification? What are the costs involved?  What are the necessary procedures and protocols? What are the requirements for training?  Are local and state legal requirements enough?  What are the required pay levels for persons with these qualifications? 

We now recommend the following minimal requirements for armed security positions:

  • A thorough background investigation*
  • Completion of a professional training program on Use of Force
  • Physical examination
  • Psychological examination
  • Complete substance screening
  • Oral board (stress interview)
  • Completion of a certified range training course
  • Completion of a certified “shoot/don’t shoot” course
  • Completion of a certified ASP (expandable baton) course
  • Completion of a Use of Hand-Irons or other Restraints course
  • Ongoing training in all areas

*A complete background investigation should include a nationwide criminal history search, local criminal history checks, driving record, credit history, employment history, extensive reference checks, and follow-up investigations on unanswered questions or suspicious findings.  Any false statements made by the applicant are grounds for immediate disqualification.

Another consideration is whether officers shall be private officers serving as security officers, or specially commissioned officers capable of arrest.  If the determination is to commission officers, an additional level of training and licensing must be added, to familiarize officers with legal requirements and restrictions, and to enable them to act as dictated by local statutory requirements.

We hope this information is useful to you.   It is a subject that should not be taken lightly.   We are happy to discuss these matters further or provide additional information.


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