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Authority to Question and Basis for Making Decisions

A Security Guard/Proprietary Private Security Officer’s Authority to Question People

A security guard/proprietary private security officer is an agent of the owner of the private property and, in this role, can exercise the owner’s right to ask people on the (owner’s) property what they are doing there, who they are, etc. If they refuse to answer the questions or if their answers are not satisfactory, the security guard/proprietary private security officer may ask them to leave. If they do not leave, the security guard/proprietary private security officer may arrest (citizen’s arrest) them for trespassing, and should call local law enforcement without unreasonable delay.

When on property and not employed as a security guard/proprietary private security officer, your authority is no greater than any other person’s. On the other hand, your authority to question people is greater on property where you are on duty as a security guard/proprietary private security officer.

What Are the Property Owner’s Rights?

The owner of the property has the right to establish certain rules on his property that may not be a part of the Penal Code. For instance, if an employee shows up for work drunk, he may be violating a company rule. The client may want the employee sent home or may intend to fire the employee. How this situation is handled is between the employer and the employee, and has nothing to do with the police or public law. A SECURITY GUARD/PROPRIETARY PRIVATE SECURITY OFFICER MUST KNOW WHAT THE EMPLOYER’S POLICY STATES.

Trying to enforce company policy could, however, result in a violation of public law, by you or by the employee.

For example, if the employee is asked to leave and refuses, he may be arrested for violating the public law against trespassing. On the other hand, if the security guard/proprietary private security officer uses unnecessary force in removing the employee from the premises, the security guard/proprietary private security officer may be arrested for committing assault and/or battery.

How Should You Handle Violations?

As a security guard/proprietary private security officer, acting as a representative of the owner on the owner’s private property, you can physically prevent a person from entering an area – but only as a last resort! Be sure to check with your employer regarding the way to handle a violation of company rules, as well as how to handle violation’ of certain laws.