The basic job description of a security guard is to observe, monitor, guard, and patrol a premises in order to prevent crimes and violence. Although arrests are not mentioned in their general job description, security guards can make arrests, or rather, detainment’s, but not in the same way as police officers can, and only under certain circumstances. Continue reading to learn more about security guards and the limits of their arresting authority.
The Job of a Security GuardHere are the general duties required of a security guard:
• Patrol and guard commercial premises;
• Prevent unlawful intrusions or trespassing;
• Circulate among patrons to maintain order;
• Write reports of daily activities and indiscretions they observe;
• Answer to and investigate sounded alarms;
• Monitor and authorize the coming and going of employees and patrons;
• Contact police or fire department in the case of emergencies and when crimes occur;
• Answer phones and take messages after-hours, or when switchboards are turned off;
• Operate detecting devices on patrons and employees to prevent unauthorized passage of materials into restricted areas;
As you can see, a security guard has a lot of authority in terms of guarding and protecting, but their authority to arrest a person is limited. They are a private citizen just like the rest of us, just in uniform. So they cannot actually arrest a person like police can, but they do have the right to make a citizen’s arrest, just as we all do. However, a citizen’s arrest can only take place under certain, specific circumstances.
In contrast to police, who can arrest anyone they choose to arrest as long as they have reasonable cause to believe that person committed a public offense, security guards can only restrain and detain a person by citizen’s arrest if: 1) the offender committed a felony, or 2) the offender attempted to commit, or did commit, a misdemeanor in their presence. In the case of a felony, the offense must have actually been committed for a security guard to make a citizen’s arrest. In the case of a misdemeanor or infraction, the crime must have been made or attempted in the presence of the security guard.
On top of these circumstances, a security guard must also verbalize specific information to the offender while making the citizen’s arrest. This includes clearly explaining to the person that they are being arrested, why they are being arrested, and their authority to make the arrest. These are colloquially referred to as the magic words that must be used for a lawful citizen’s arrest. And the last stipulation for a security guard who makes a citizen’s arrest is to contact the police immediately after apprehending an offender and turn them over.