Unarmed Officers in Private Security

You are walking on the street when somebody grabs you from behind, mugs and steals from you. That person has just victimized you. According to Wolfgang, to victimize is to make a victim out of somebody (1967). Victimization has various consequences and impacts on individuals and the society at large. It is obvious that the victims will always be fearful especially about repeat attacks. On the other hand victims are subjected to physical and even psychological injury. Most victims end up hurt or even dead. Those who survive are usually emotionally distraught to say the least.

Understanding the consequences of victimization is important because then, we are better placed to help them cope as well as devising workable policies. Victimization also leads to loss of trust on the security system of a society. For instance in a study carried out in Canada people who had at one time or another been victimized regarded the police as unapproachable, not really ensuring security or not enforcing laws like they were supposed to. This is in contrast to those people who had never been victimized. But the study also reported that the times an individual had been

victimized played a huge role in their sentiments about the security and justice systems. (AuCoin & Beauchamp, 2004) It is therefore important that we understand in what ways crime occurs and is dealt with, so that we can help in reducing the rate at which it occurs. It is for this reason that private security has become necessary. While one may to opt in install their home with the most recent state of art technologies to keep criminals away others, others yet may decide to purchase such weapons as guns while others may hire private security.

For the better part of the 20th century, the society had to rely primarily on the police and the criminal justice system to deal with crime. However, crime has grown in magnitude over the years overwhelming both the police and the Criminal Justice System. Moreover, it has become a very costly issue. The public sector cut backs in the budget experienced have only served to worsen the issue; it has over stressed the public law enforcement agencies. It is for this reason that people have switched to private security as a way or preventing and controlling crime. (Fisher & Green, 1998)

Private security plays a crucial part in today’s world. Crime is happening left right and centre. With the public law enforcement agencies besieged, people can only turn to the private firms. According to Fisher and Green, the private security industry has grown considerably such that its total expenditure has surpassed that of the public law enforcement agencies (1998) As of 2006, there were 1 million guards (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007). According to Fisher and Green (1998), one big challenge that the private security sector has had to deal with is the issue of the security personnel.

In private security both unarmed and armed officers are charged with the duty of providing security. Security officers in private security are of five types. There is the unarmed, the armed, unarmed non sworn alarm responders, the armed non sworn alarm responders and the armored car guards (Nemeth, 2004). Unarmed security officers is used to refer to the person who personally guards, watches or patrols another’s property without the assistance of a weapon or even a guard dog (“Department of Justice and Attorney General,” 2009).

Thus, in most instances, unarmed officers are what we would refer to as guards. We can find them in banks, hospitals or department stores. Their main task is to ensure that no security mishaps occur. Thus, the main difference between armed and unarmed officers in security lies in their knack to fulfill what the general public connects them with; crime. Ask any random person what duty security officers are charged with and the response will probably be the stopping of deadly and unlawful attacks on innocent people.

(Duvernay, 1990) To them it does not matter whether the officers are armed or unarmed. Even so, regardless of their duties and whether they are armed or not, they should be able to adequately respond to the needs of the general public. While the unarmed officers are to be found in various establishments, it is expected that they should never be substituted for law enforcement officers (“Private Security Officer Quality Assurance Act of 1995”, 1995). Still, it is surprising to note that despite the serious role they play, unarmed officers in

the private security are trained for a shorter time and they earn much less. The report of the task force on private security that was released in 1976 was a step towards changing this state of affairs. It set forth the standards that should be adopted in the selection and the training of unarmed officers. Moreover, it set a code of ethics. It was from this that the Sundquist Bill of 1993, set that all unarmed officers should be trained for 16 hours (Fisher & Green, 1998). As much as there has been debate surrounding unarmed officers and their training, it should be

noted that there has been general consensus that training is absolute necessary to the armed officers (Brislin & Lewis, 1998). Some people would like to argue that unarmed officers may be assigned to duties where the threat of violence is minimal or non existent. But there is no sure way of telling where violence may arise. In these days when the threat of terrorism is real, the threat of violence is relative. One minute you are safe the next you are on your death bed. Violence is every where. For this reason, it would be prudent that the unarmed officers are given some kind of training.

They still need to take care of themselves after all crime and violence never sleep. Unarmed guards are assigned different tasks some that require them to be static and others that require their moving about. In most instances, such kind of officer’s work in shifts. Thus, one may be able to work as an unarmed officer on a time basis. It is for this reason that properly trained and fully qualified police officers looking to make an extra buck moonlight as unarmed guards. The job provides flexible work hours.

(“United States Department of Labor”, 2007) Consequently, 15% of guards (unarmed officers) work on a part time basis with a majority of them holding down the job as a second job just to supplement their earnings (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007). According to Purpura there has been much debate behind the issue of private security especially the training, selection and even the performance of the officers. The media has been rife with images of untrained but armed officers and the threat they pose which has attracted a lot of protests from the public (Fisher & Green, 1998).

It does not matter that the images could have been in the movies. The public can easily see it happening in real life which is something they hope to stop from happening. According to Fisher and Green, a look into the report of the task force on private security reveals that there is lack of ample training in all levels of private security (1998). It is at this point that the question of whether to arm or not to arm the officers in the private security sector is asked. However, because it is not possible to do away with the officer wholly and completely, the best solution is then to train them.

Still, unarmed officers are regarded as different from their armed counterparts on the basis of education, training and remuneration. Education Requirements. While it is imperative for armed guards (police officers) to receive training, the same does not apply to the unarmed guards. In the United States for example, no specific education requirement has been set for unarmed guards. Nonetheless, most private security companies opt for the candidates who at least graduated from high school (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007). Training

Because they have no formal training in security issues, the unarmed guards are usually trained on the job. Still, the training offered to the officers highly depends on the particular security company. In most cases, it is the armed guards who receive the most intensive training. But this is only because by law, it is their employers who are responsible for the use of force (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007). This is to say, in the event that an armed officer uses force and harms a civilian in the process, the employer will also be blamed.

It is for this reason that armed officers receive training on the handling of weapons and laws covering the use of force. Conversely, because unarmed officers do not handle weapons or use force, they are also not trained on the same. However, they may receive training on crisis deterrence, protection, first aid and any specialized training depending on the nature of their assignment. For instance, an officer who is hired in an establishment that requires more security say a nuclear plant, will receive more training that who is hired in a super market. (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007) Licensing.

In most states through out the US, for a private security to keep its license of hiring unarmed guards they are required by law to provide continuous on the job training for those unarmed officers. Training guidelines for the officers were even formulated by the American Society for Industrial Security International. According to the society, guards should be trained for at least 48 hours after three months into their jobs plus they should have passed a written and a performance exam (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007). The unarmed officers also need to have their own practicing licenses.

For one to acquire a license so that they may be hired as unarmed officers in the US, it is imperative that one be in fulfillment of the following requirements. Be 18 years of age, have passed the background check and have completed training on courses such as emergency procedures. In Australia on the other hand, for one to work as an unarmed officer, they must have first applied and been approved by the Department of Justice and the Attorney General. In addition, they are expected to fulfill other crucial requirements such as being of the right age, 18 years, and without a criminal record.

Possession of other skills such as driving may come in handy. (“Department of Justice and the Attorney General”, 2009) Earnings It could be because that unarmed officers have lower qualifications and are not adequately trained that they earn much less compared to those who are trained. More over, the unarmed officers do not quite enjoy job security or have the opportunity to advance their career like their trained counterparts. (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007) In the event that an establishment does not require the services of the unarmed guards, they officers automatically lose their jobs.

The only way that they may be able to move up the ladders in their field is by acquiring additional skills for instance in management (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007). Thus, according to Purpura there has been much debate behind the issue of arming the officers. On one hand, there are those who are in support of the arming of officers while there is a group against it. Those against the arming of the officers argue that it all depends on the nature of the of the assignment that the officers may be involved.

If the assignment, for instance patrolling, does not in any way pose a threat of violent, then the argument is that the officers should not be armed. On the other hand, if the threat of violence is openly real, for instance in a bank, the officers should be armed by all means (2007). However, according to Purpura, unarmed officers are unarmed primarily for liability reasons. It is possible that some of the officers may not be adequately trained thereby increasing instances of mistakes, accidents and subsequently lawsuits. This is something that security companies seek to avoid at all costs (2007).

However, unarmed officers are not disappearing any time soon. As long as crime is a threat, then there will always be need for the guards. It does not matter that they are not armed. The fact that they are close by, say at the department store, is sure way of keeping criminals at bay. Thus, as demand for security increases, so does the need for the guards. Consequently, the US Department of Labor estimates that the employment of unarmed guards will grow by 17% between 2006 and 2016. This then means that the 1 million numbers will be surpassed by far.

The most impressive thing about this is that it is far much above the average in most other occupations (2007). If the field is going to take people off the unemployment benches all the better. The growth of the field is also good news because it will lighten the public enforcement agencies’ burden of dealing with crime. As demand for the officers grows, a shift is set to occur. As opposed to working as an unarmed officer just to supplement one’s income, most establishments will be looking to hiring permanent officers. Consequently, the officers will be able to enjoy job security plus hire pay (“United States Department of Labor”, 2007).

Because unarmed officers will be around for quite a long time, the best thing is to train them effectively. The hours that have been set aside for the training are too few. Also, the training curriculum should be worked. As much as it is good to train the officers on first aid and other basics, they should also be taught how to handle weapons. Circumstances may force them to handle weapons and in the event they cannot they will be a danger both to themselves and the public they have been assigned to protect. Even the minimum age set for those wishing to join the private security field should be reviewed.

18 can be considered as relatively young. A 18 year old may not be able to handle the security of other people like a much older person would. Training is of utmost importance because according to reports by the US government, the public often has problems telling apart the private security officers and the real police officers. They do not understand that that two have very different skills and perform diverse duties. Since they are also in the security field to provide protection, they should be able to do what is expected of them and more.


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