Hiring off-duty police officers to moonlight as security guards (or retired officers, a similar prospect) is common and widespread throughout the industry. But is it a good security practice? Does using off-duty cops come with any risks or limitations?
Your perspective may differ based on the city you operate in, and what sort of jobs your security firm usually handles. But there are several pros and cons that all security guard businesses should keep in mind.
Pros to Hiring Off-Duty Police Offices
They often have important training and licensing taken care of:
Police officers may have already completed important training programs necessary for becoming a security guard, or at least have enough experience with similar training that it’s easy for them to jump through the hoops. If you are looking for an armed guard, police officers typically have their firearm licensing and training up to date, meaning that a lot of the work has already been done. This is a very popular reason for hiring from law enforcement.
They have built-in experience:
Police officers are more likely to have experience dealing with tense situations and violent individuals. There’s less concern about them not being able to handle a violent event or a situation where people need to be carefully directed. They also have experience in logging reports that both guard and law enforcement positives require. In some states, court opinion has favored the idea that off-duty police officers can even make official arrests, when necessary, although mixing up the two lines of work can be dangerous (as we’ll mention below).
They can easily serve as witnesses if necessary.
Police officers are typically used to court appearances and can serve as witnesses without worrying about their performance. This can be valuable if a security firm wants to avoid legal trouble or needs to present the facts of a situation in a clear manner.
They are less likely to have misunderstandings with local police:
If law enforcement needs to be called on a security job, off-duty officers are more likely to manage situations without any mistakes or misunderstandings.
Cons to Hiring Off-Duty Police Offices
They don’t have all the same legal protections:
When an officer is on duty, they have an immense number of legal protections from the government to do their jobs. This removes concerns about liability and lawsuits, for example, while also giving police officers additional capabilities (like an official arrest) that don’t apply to other citizens. Most of that privilege (not all) goes away when police officers are off duty – none of those legal protections apply when they work as security officers.
They shouldn’t use the same equipment:
On legal grounds, off-duty officers should never wear their uniforms or use police organization equipment, including their on-duty radios and weapons. This could lead to serious claims of misrepresentation and even fraud – and many cities won’t be happy with the idea at all. This is a tricky subject, because some security firms like to advertise that their guards can wear police uniforms or drive vehicles that say “police,” and so on. Doing this is a bad idea. It’s not usually permitted by police departments or city regulations, and the risks are far too high if something goes wrong.
Screening is still required:
Security firms don’t really have any way to ensure that police officers have already been screened and gone through background checks. It’s often department policy, but there’s no guarantee. That means that officers will need to pass a separate background check for the security company – there’s no skipping this step and the associated costs.
It can lead to unfair hiring practices:
Workers may feel like a security firm is giving preference to off-duty police officers, or even seeking to hire only cops even if other candidates are very qualified. This can lead to claims of bias in the workplace and may even lead to legal action. It’s important that the security firm doesn’t show any bias in its hiring practices.
Police officers don’t necessarily make situations safer:
Choosing a police officer over another recruit doesn’t automatically increase the safety of guard jobs. Sometimes it can have the opposite effect. There are a couple of factors at work here: First, law enforcement training may encourage responses that aren’t in line with what security guards should be doing, especially when it comes to use of force. Second, off-duty cops working a security gig as a second job are more tired and more stressed than full-time security guards, which can lead to mistakes. It’s important to understand these risks when hiring officers.
Security firms shouldn’t assume that police officers can transition to security work (full or part-time) without any training at all. Officers have advantages related to their experience, but they will need training and clear instruction on their boundaries as private security guards. They will also need their own equipment and uniforms. With the right parameters, off-duty officers can be a plus to a security firm and even provide marketing advantages.