Private Security

The role of privately-operated security forces is an important one within the Criminal Justice degree network. These private security forces provide a supplement to both the many state and federal security groups already in place. The private security category can include anything from security at a public facility, like an airport, a college, or public school campus, to security in a retail mall, or security at a sports arena. Private security has also supplemented the protection at federal government military installations through the handling of badge checking at base entrance gates.

Private security generally means “security guards” or “security officers” where the primary function is to patrol, inspect, and protect property against acts of theft, fire, terrorism, or any other illegal activity that could be carried out by others. Private security is responsible to first and foremost protect the property of their employer, provide law enforcement on the property they are protecting, and call in the police, fire fighters, or medical support if necessary. Armed with weapons and communication devices, private security can also be responsible for preparing written reports, recording their observations, and interviewing a witness or victim for testimony in court.

Private security can perform their functions in either an active role or passive role, or both. In terms of an active role, private security can assume mobile patrolling by land, air, or sea means depending upon what they are protecting. In a passive role, private security will perform observations by methods of remote monitoring using closed-circuit television cameras, computers, or other forms of electronic device surveillance.

Private security responsibilities can be affected by what they are protecting. For example in a shopping retail setting, the guard is there to protect against theft of money and merchandise. In a college campus setting, the security guard is there to protect students against assaults from outside intruders. At transportation terminals, guards use metal detection systems, scanners, and other devices to protect the public against terrorist attacks and explosives. Crowd control, maintaining civil order, and directing traffic for parking is the primary role for security at sports arenas.

Private security firms offer careers in one of the fastest growing sectors of criminal justice and, in fact, one of the most important since government-controlled security watch is growing ever more stretched by the necessity to maintain law and order in society.

Explore a Career as a Security Guard

Regardless of what name they are assigned - security guard or officer, loss prevention or security specialist - the profession is growing at a rapid rate. As of 2008, over 1.1 million individuals worked within the private security field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The profession is expected to continue thriving due to the raised awareness of criminal and terrorist activities in the United States. If you are interested in a career in criminal justice and want to help provide a safe environment, explore this versatile career choice.

Although a degree or certification is not required in all fifty states, these preparatory classes will certainly give you an edge over your peers in this challenging profession. The most basic form of training is a certification course in public security. These classes are offered in various formats, including online, seminar, and traditional classroom courses. The courses may focus on basic principles such as communication, procedures, report writing, use of force, and even grooming. ASIS International provides certification courses that lead to the Certified Protection Professional, or CPP, designator.

Community college courses can be taken to earn an associate degree in criminal justice or you can attend a university to obtain a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, although this is not required at the entry level to this profession.

Licensure requirements for security officers are not uniform across the nation. Each state mandates its own requirements, which are set forth through the licensing division, state police, and department of civil service or state law enforcement division. Additionally, if you take work in a state where gambling is legalized, you may need specific licensure as a gaming surveillance officer, above and beyond your security guard training.

Prior to starting duty, guards may need to take job-specific training, which may be provided or funded by their prospective employer. Depending on the work environment, additional training may include courses on working with bomb threats, antiterrorism, crisis-intervention techniques, first aid, and learning how to communicate effectively to de-escalate drunk or disorderly individuals. Security guards may require additional state-mandated training, depending on the licensure regulations.

Armed guards, or guards carrying any type of weapon such as batons, deterrent sprays, and handguns, are required to undergo more advanced training on each weapon and may need a licensure to carry each weapon. Some states, such as Florida, distinguish between security guards and armed guards, with the latter requiring advanced licensure and training. Prospective employees with a history of military service or law enforcement may be eligible for abbreviated training courses.

The majority of security guards are not armed; their purpose is to detect, report, and deter theft, not to apprehend criminals. These professionals may be trained in detention and holding detainees, but the actual meting of justice will come from law enforcement agents such as a police or federal officer. However, that is not to say that this profession is easy. Security guards may also work as bouncers or bodyguards, or transport large amounts of cash, which are high-profile, potentially dangerous jobs. Guards must be physically fit and observant, and have moral character above reproach. State licensure and prospective employers require extensive background and employment history checks. Illegal aliens and individuals with a history of incarceration or criminal conviction are not eligible for this profession.

The prospective employers in this career field are as diverse as the jobs you will perform. Retail stores, malls, amusement parks, businesses, banks, construction sites, and even the increasingly popular gated communities all need security services. The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, is always seeking security guards for myriad openings at the airport. You may work on a contractual basis through a security agency or as a proprietary officer for the business. The nature of your work, hours, and pay will depend on your employer. Typically, armed guards and those with a military or law enforcement background are the highest paid among security guards.

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