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PRIVATE POLICE LICENSING

Addressing licensing standards within the security industry has been percolating for
years. As those in the security industry are quite aware, the quest to “professionalize”
security officers is often tied to licensing regulations. The essence of this connection is as
follows: in order to increase the service level and effectiveness of security officers, it is
widely understood that training, pay and selection standards need to be heightened. While
these three factors are often interrelated, this piece will focus on licensing standards—as
these are the most cleanly attributable to governmental regulations.

Licensing standards directly relate to the issue of legal authority. As the work of security
officers is increasing in scope and frequency (see Public Safety Policing model), the need
to maintain professionalism is critical. As private security expands into the public way,
and to securing critical infrastructure, it is necessary to promulgate standards. Stated in
another way, in order to perform the work of the “police,” private police officers should
be trained in a manner commensurate with their functional work product. Training and
licensing standards must prepare these officers for the complexities of policing. Indeed,
the largest security association in the world, ASIS International, has recognized this fact.
In furtherance of this goal, “The Private Security Officer Selection and Training
Guideline” has been adopted. In this guideline, the authors note that “security officers …
must also be able to work closely and effectively with public safety personnel.” i This is
directly in line with the thesis of this paper.

This guideline is, by far, the most comprehensive approach to addressing the training and
selection needs of security officers. While this guideline is designed for private security
officers generally, it has direct application to private police officers. Simply stated, the
guideline is both relevant and pointed. This guideline recommends state regulation in
such areas as background investigations, training, continuing education, insurance,
licensing, and oversight bodies. In addition, the guideline suggests certain selection
criteria for new hires, including criminal history, education, citizenship, fingerprinting,
photographs, drug screening, and other personal information related to the applicant.
Without getting into the details of these criteria, suffice it to say that each of these factors
will go a long way toward establishing more professionalism in the security industry
generally, and in those private police officers who operate within the public realm. ii
Indeed, since the actions of private police officers are likely to be much more visible in
the public realm, the need to meet or exceed these criteria is of critical importance.

The circumstances driving the need to get our arms around licensing can be seen in this
example. Police in Kansas City, Mo., have recently cracked down on a city hotel that was
allegedly using unlicensed security. This significance is illustrated by the fact that
approximately 6,000 private security guards are licensed by the city. Kansas City requires
“private security guards to be licensed to help ensure the uniformity of standards within
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the industry,” said Tammy Gallagher, supervisor of the Police Department’s private
officers licensing unit. In an apparent attempt to skirt the licensing standards, a hotel in
Kansas City declared it would no longer be using security guards. However, according to
police, the hotel simply changed the name of their security staff to “guest services.”
Police arrested the unlicensed worker on charges of false impersonation. They also
required the hotel to license all members of its security staff. By licensing security
guards, the city can be sure that they are qualified to carry guns, that they understand the
limitations of their authority, that they are insured, and that they have not been convicted
of a felony, Gallagher explained. Licenses cost up to $125 per employee annually, and
$250 for private security agencies, Gallagher said. iii

This example clearly demonstrates the tension between the need to regulate and the
desire to innovate. Of course, the provision of security services may involve decisions of
life and death—or less dramatically—law and order. Since these are of critical
importance, we must maintain appropriate levels of accountability. One way to achieve
this worthy goal is through licensing. As the above example illustrates, government can
readily provide standards through licensing regulations. A useful analogy can be seen
from the current vehicle licensing laws. For example, states have been empowered by the
legislature to regulate the issuance of drivers’ licenses and in the operation of vehicles.
The logic of these regulations demonstrates the dual concerns of criticality and
functionality. In this sense, states restrict the operation of certain vehicles, such large
trucks, the transportation of people (particularly children and other “special need”
individuals), the use of motorcycles, and the transportation of hazardous materials. These
are achieved through drivers’ license classifications (from “A” to “M”). Each of these
classifications is loosely based on the notion that the driver either must have specialized
training (i.e. motorcycles, and transportation of people and hazardous materials) and/or
that the operation of a particular vehicle entails certain risks to the general public (or even
the driver).

Obviously, part of the logic to require specialized training relates to the potential public
safety concerns—i.e. the criticality of the job or the operation of the vehicle. In addition,
these licensing classifications are also based on the weight of the vehicle, which can be
loosely related to the different functional attributes of driving a passenger vehicle versus
driving a large truck and trailer. Hence, the licensing classifications go to the substantial
differences in operating these very different vehicles. Finally, drivers’ licensing laws also
account for special circumstances, such as age requirements, special vehicles,
probationary licenses, and restricted permits.

This being said, it is not necessary that the training and selection standards be equivalent
to public police officers. Police typically receive 600 to 800 hours of training. Instead, the
best practice would be to develop a training curriculum that focuses on the particular role
or function to be performed. The different levels and types of training would then be
regulated by a particular type of license issued by the state (or other government entity).
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The proposed training and licensing continuum is illustrated in Table 1. In this model, the
key is to assess both the functionality and critical nature of the job. As the functional
complexity of the work increases, or as the critical nature of the task increases, the level
of training and licensing should also increase. As mentioned above, this continuum is
found in vehicle licensing standards. For passenger vehicles, the typical training and
licensing requirements are rather basic. As the nature of the vehicle becomes more
complicated to operate (i.e., larger tractor trailers), or as the nature of the cargo becomes
more sensitive to protect (i.e., passengers in a bus or dangerous chemicals in a tank car),
the need for better trained and higher skilled drivers also increases.

Table 1: Training and Licensing Continuum


(How)

<---------Training Hours---------->
P
U
Traffic CSO Patrol Tactical SWAT
B Control Officer Officer HBT
L
I
C

P
R Armed/
I Ambassador Hybrid Nuclear
Traffic Proactive
Utility
V
Control Officer Patrol
A
Officer SWAT
T
E

License: A B C D E

In this sense, the key is to train and license the security officer in a manner that
adequately prepares them for the expected work product. Within each sector, training and
skill levels vary substantially. The table compares public and private police—as these
officers have substantially different training standards and experiences. For example, the
Ambassador model used in Atlanta, Seattle, Minneapolis, etc., can be compared to those
of the Community Service Officer (CSO) in the public sector. These types of officers
have similar roles. They typically perform visible public relations functions, and are
largely designed to perform service tasks. Similarly, the patrol officer in the public sector
can be compared to the “hybrid” private patrol officer. These hybrid officers should have
more training than the Ambassador. They will also perform certain duties similar to
police patrol officers. They will make occasional arrests. More often, their functions
include public relations, taking reports, and performing various order maintenance
functions.

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Similarly, tactical police officers typically are more trained and skilled than patrol
officers. They tend to be much more proactive, looking to engage suspicious persons and
make arrests when appropriate. In the same way, the armed/proactive private patrol
officer will receive more training than the hybrid patrol officer. They also will make
more arrests, and conduct themselves in a more proactive manner. They will look to
engage suspicious persons, yet they will still perform various order maintenance
functions. These are comparable to the models used in Hollywood BID and Marquette
Park. Finally, the respective sectors will also have their SWAT components. In the public
sector, these officers will be a proportionately larger percentage of public policing
personnel (pursuant to the Public Safety Policing model). These SWAT officers (and to
some extent tactical officers as well) will represent the “militarization” aspects of the new
policing model. In the private sector, these SWAT officers can be compared to those
performing security functions in combat zones, such as Blackwater (now Xe) and Triple
Canopy. In any case, of course, the functions of private police substantially differ within
the sector. For example, traffic control aides are quite different from the tasks of security
officers at a nuclear power plant. Each should be trained and licensed at a different level.
However, as noted above, there are similarities across the sectors. Consequently, the
skills and job description of different types of private police officers must be accounted
for—just as in public policing. The licensing should range from class “A” to “D” or “E,”
depending upon the particular legislative approach. Similarly, training should range from
20 or 40 hours minimum, and rise to 200 to 800 hours for street patrols and utility/critical
infrastructure security. iv

It is time to implement these licensing regulations within the security industry. Instead of
having two broad classifications (i.e. such unarmed with 20 hours of training versus
armed with 40 hours of training), licensing requirements should be based on the functions
and criticality of the job that the security officer performs. These relate to job
descriptions and the level of training needed for the task to be performed. The more
critical the job, the more training required. Hence, the nature and function of the work is
the driving force of licensing standards.

In summary, I suggest private police licensing should be associated and contrasted to the
job descriptions of public policing (see attached chart) and to vehicle licensing standards.
I envision requiring training and selection standards based on the functions of the job and
the critical nature of the job. As such, we need to think about the characteristics of the
job, not merely some arbitrary 20/40 hour unarmed versus armed requirement. Unless
licensing standards are tied to the realities of the job, the value of any such standards
would be negligible. This being said, the exact number of training hours, the types of
required training, and the background and selection standards are subject to debate.

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It is my assertion that these details can be ironed out—if the decision makers are sensitive
of the paradigm shift that needs to occur within and outside of the security industry. In
this sense, I advocate the focus on the “public safety” industry, which combines the

resources of both the private and public sectors—designed to enhance the level of public
safety in contemporary America. These issues were discussed in my ground breaking
books entitled: The Privatization of Police in America: An Analysis & Case Study and
Terrorism and Public Safety Policing: Implications for the Obama Presidency.

It is my hope that this brief summary helps move licensing toward a more professional
approach.
© James F. Pastor, 2010

ENDNOTES

i
“Private Security Officer Selection and Training” (2004). ASIS International.
ii
See, for example, Pastor, James F. (2006). Security Law and Methods. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-
Heinemann; and Nemeth, Charles P. (1989). Private Security and the Law. Cincinnati: Anderson.
iii
Alm, Rick (2005). “Police Give Hotel Deadline to License Security Staff,” Kansas City Star (05/10/05).
iv
Pastor, James F. (2003). The Privatization of Police in America: An Analysis & Case Study. Jefferson,
N.C., McFarland.

SecureLaw Ltd. Phone: 312-423-6700


65 West Jackson Blvd., #112 Fax: 312-692-2322
Chicago, IL. 60604-3598 www.securelaw.info Email: info@securelaw.info

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