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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

Rent-a-Cops, Wannabes, and Scabs—Oh, My!

Security guards are often dismissed, maligned, and disparaged—and underused.

July 11, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

There's no shortage of disparaging terms by which people sometimes refer to security officers. And while some may, in fact, be incompetent, many are not. It's one reason that I bristle when I hear cops being so dismissive of security officers. Perhaps the only other workforce groups to get badmouthed as often by cops are correctional officers and firefighters.

You'd think that as people engaged in a profession that is no less broadstroked by the public, cops would have more empathy. Ironically, many security officers will either become police officers, or are retired cops working to make a little extra. Some are even active LEOs making a little money on the side.

The fact remains that security officers have a very dangerous job, as well. In many ways, they may be even more vulnerable than police officers. Most don't get anywhere near the level of training the average officer does. Many don't have ballistic vests, or even so much as radio communication. Yet they are expected to prevent crimes.

Many do; even if they occasionally fail to prevent a crime, they may yet save lives. Richard Jewell is a prime example. The security guard was a hero who saved lives prior to the detonation of a deadly bomb at Atlanta, Georgia's Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics. Unfortunately, the FBI and the press had a field day implicating him as responsible for planting the bomb in the first place. At least he had some measure of vindication before his death nearly a year ago.

Yet despite all he'd been through, Jewell was supportive of law enforcement officers. He's hardly an exception. Security guards are among the first to lend assistance to officers when they most desperately need it (think: getting their ass kicked), make good and often sympathetic witnesses (think: "Yeah, the cop kicked that guy's ass—and the SOB had it coming"), and have engaged active shooters ("It seemed like it was me, the gunman, and God," said security guard Jeanne Assam, reflecting on her feelings after she confronted and killed a multiple murder suspect who charged into her Colorado Springs church firing a weapon).

Security guards can also be valuable sources of intel. One motel interdiction officer made a point to develop excellent rapport with motel security. When a security guard heard a shotgun being racked as he passed a hotel room, the first thing he did was notify the interdiction officer. Absent the rapport, it is possible that he might have been less conscientious about getting in touch with the officer.

While some leave their mark on history—the vigilance of one Watergate security guard ultimately led to a President's departure from office—most security guards blend into the background. Store security often serve as informants on petty theft crimes; apartment security has time and again proven to be first witnesses on everything from domestic violence to car burglary rings.

But then, security guards often work at or near high crime venues, and are often themselves targeted. Those working at night clubs are particularly vulnerable. While threats of retaliation are often made by 86'd patrons, thankfully, most are not played out. But they do happen.

True, some security guards are dirtbags. Names like Tim McVeigh and Kenneth Bianchi come to mind. But then, despite all manner of background checks and psych exams, the law enforcement community still has its fair share of sociopaths.

So get to know your local security guard. Find out what he's about. Because even if he does turn out to be a first class screw-up, shouldn't you know that, as well?

Tags: Private Security Officers


Comments (6)

Displaying 1 - 6 of 6

Deputy8609 @ 9/24/2008 7:40 AM

Security guards do have their place. However, I think some take their job a little too seriously. Some casino security guards think that they are in fact law enforcement. I stopped one on her way to work one night for speeding and she had the gall to tell me that we were on the same team. (Her way of getting out of the ticket) I asked her what law enforcement agency she worked for and she told me the local casino. I reminded her that she wasn't a cop and she got her ticket. She was upset about it, but I also thought as law enforcement officers, we to are not above the law and if stopped for a violation, if need be should take the ticket too. I know that there will be those that disagree with me and no I don't write other cops speeding tickets, but have arrested one or two for OWI due to the seriousness and the circumstances. After all, I didn't put them in that place and to try to cover it up would have been immoral. Stay safe and work hard.

DirtyD @ 10/15/2008 8:17 AM

This article is an open door to another issue I would like to read about and find out how LEO's feel about volunteers or reserves. Both who I found to be highly untrained and dangerous to my job. It is nice to have the presence of the uniform; however that is all that it is, a uniform. The public may be fooled by this until something bad happens and they cannot respond.

law_emt @ 3/16/2009 1:02 PM

replying to DirtyD. Concerning your opinion on Reserve officers. I believe this opinion though true for some departments is not factual for all. Washington State for exaple implements Reserve officers/Deputies. The training they receive is actually more demanding than the career LEO's because it is the exact same training, with instructors from the full time academy being used (and same curriculum) but a shorter time frame. The reserves in this state are not just uniforms they have full LEO privileges and responsibilities when on duty. I was a Reserve Deputy prior to finding a position as a career LEO.

Michael2009 @ 10/24/2009 12:14 AM

I think this story is well written. As a security guard, I have had several encounters with "LEO's", some good some not so good. I've always tried to present an air of professionalism with every encounter. But there have been times when I've needed information to complete my reports, and courtesy was not extended. Keep in mind the information I generally require does not include ssn#, or medical status, usually just the name of an individual or maybe address or phone #. This information is especially helpful if I'm called to serve as a witness. As "LEO's" wouldn't you want your potential witness to be able to put a name with the face on a witness stand.

Michael2009 @ 10/24/2009 12:30 AM

Responding to Deputy 8609, I agree with you, that no one is above the law. But, also you are wrong. Our job descriptions are different and you have governmental authority to execute warrants. But even anyone can make a Citizens Arrest for a felony and in some states as long as a Citizen witnesses the offense, they can make a Citizens arrest for misdemeaner offences. Though doing so can be dangerous. Your basic job description is law enforcement while mine is crime prevention, and while I am not in anyway pretending to be an LEO, there's been many of times I wish I had backup just a call away. It's not fun walking dark alley's rattling doors coming across drug deal's, domestics, bar fights without even an asp or pepper spray. And while I'm certified through OPOTA and the Ohio Attorney Generals office to work as an armed guard most clients don't want to pay the price for armed service.

Random @ 5/5/2012 4:47 AM

This seems to be the social equivalent of a soldier and a mercenary. Both often end up doing the others job. There are poor quality ones on both sides. There are also good ones in both professions. Both sides are suspicious that they may pit against each other. If either side isn’t prepared for retirement, they wish they had the others job.

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