Armed Security Guards vs. Armed Security Officers

Armed Security Guard vs. Armed Security Officer? Most clients do not see a difference outside of cost. However, there are very real and important distinctions. My home state of California, easily one of the most draconian states in the union, can serve as a perfect example.

In the state of California private security companies are regulated by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) under the Department of Consumer Affairs. A person can start working as an Armed Guard by following the steps below:

  • Attend 8 hour class to get a guard license called a “Guard Card” and pass the exam.
  • Attend 8 hours in class and 6 hours on the range for Exposed Firearm Permit and pass qualifying shoot.
  • Submit Application & Fees for Guard Card and Exposed Firearm Permit ($130.00 + $1.00 online convenience fee).
  • Live Scan fingerprint submission to DOJ ($32.00) and FBI ($17.00) plus Firearm Eligibility Fee ($32.00).
  • Summary: $212.00, 16 classroom hours, and 6 firearm range hours.

Note: For Guard Cards there is also an additional 32 hours of training to be completed within the first 6 months. However, a guard can start working after only the first 8 hour course and unfortunately the BSIS does not actively follow up on this requirement.

That’s it. There is also no requirement for drug testing or full background checks. The reality is such that many crimes are not grounds for disqualification. As long as there is no hit on an applicant’s DOJ / FBI Live Scan submission and no known felony record, would-be guards are given the BSIS stamp of approval. Many crimes don’t even show up on the DOJ / FBI Live Scan, including some fairly serious ones. This has led to a large number of armed guards with questionable histories and less than desirable moral standards.

While there are always exceptions to the rule, the training provided by the BSIS is abysmal. Even in the rare cases where the training is good, usually when it is presented by an ex-cop, it is still far too short and cannot possibly cover enough material to adequately prepare an armed guard to protect life and property or the legal ramifications of taking action in such a situation. It also does nothing to weed out those that lack the ability to make rational decisions under pressure. This means that it is possible, and very likely, that hiring a security company to provide nothing more than a state licensed armed guard would expose a client to unnecessary liability. The client would be trading one set of liabilities for another one with a gun.

Furthermore, the minimum general liability insurance requirement for such a company is only 1M per occurrence and 2M aggregate. If the state licensed armed guard ever shot someone that policy level might cover the liability if it was justified. What if it was not justified? What if it was downright negligent? After the security company’s insurance is done it is likely that the client will be on the hook too. Did the contract they signed have an indemnification clause that protects the client? How much did the client really save by going with the less expensive option?

So how does a client mitigate the liability for which they are hiring security while not opening themselves to another possibly bigger liability? Well, hire a company to provide an Armed Security Officer. These are individuals with law enforcement training and experience working in the security field. They are regulated by the BSIS the same as Armed Security Guards. Although the BSIS makes no distinction. However, at least for Wyatt & Associates Protection Division (WAPD), to qualify as an Armed Security Officer you must meet the following minimum criteria:

  • Complete all the steps required by the BSIS for Armed Security Guard including additional guard card courses ($212.00), baton ($30.00), and OC/Pepper Spray ($30.00).
  • At the bare minimum, have attended and graduated from a POST Basic Training Academy (aka. Police Academy) provided by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). This is either a full time 25 weeks 8 hours per day Monday through Friday or a longer part-time equivalent. The course covers class room and practical training in defensive tactics, firearms, baton, OC (pepper spray), law, court room procedures, driving, CPR, First Aid, and so much more.

Summary: $272.00, 48 BSIS hours, 6 BSIS range hours, and a minimum 1000 POST Academy hours on average.

Note: The above represents minimum requirements. The cost associated with attending a POST academy is in the thousands if paid by the applicant and not a sponsoring department. Most WAPD Armed Security Officers have many additional years of law enforcement experience as well.

In addition to the training requirements of the BSIS, the law enforcement training Armed Security Officers receive prior to entering into the private security field is significant and impressive. The training has prepared the Armed Security Officer to protect life and property in the most effective ways possible. They have a greater understanding and aptitude for matters of law that might come into play when taking action. The training has honed skills in the Armed Security Officer that guards don’t even come close to developing. Skills such as superior communication, the ability to overcome situations verbally (aka “Verbal Judo”*), observation and reporting, self-discipline and accountability, command presence, and the ability to remain calm and rational during emergency situations. They keep their uniforms and other equipment in a clean and serviceable condition at all times. Another important training point to consider is the extensive firearms training program including live fire exercises and training in weapon retention. Something regular Armed Security Guards never receive.

It doesn’t stop there. The vetting process is far superior as well. To be sworn into law enforcement candidates must pass extensive background checks. Every little mistake they have made in life, any illicit drug use, every reference, job history, residential history, and more is scrutinized. Their very integrity is brought into light and analyzed. There are so many things that can disqualify them in addition to any past criminal history that a great many applicants never even make it into an academy. The Live Scan form for Armed Security Guards is only 1 page while the POST background package known as the Personal History Statement is 27 pages. Which do you think is more likely to weed out questionable histories and less than desirable moral standards?

Wyatt & Associates Protection Division only supplies the highest caliber of Armed Security Officers. In addition to everything discussed in this article, we take the time to get to know our officers on a personal level. We stake our reputation on our Armed Security Officer’s integrity, customer service, and ability to mitigate risk and increase opportunities for crime prevention as a direct result of their superior training and experience.

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*“Verbal Judo” can be viewed as a form of tactical communication or verbal self-defense that has been adopted by many law enforcement agencies around the country and effectively incorporated into their training programs. “Verbal Judo” and several subsequent training courses were originally developed by the late Dr. George Thomas to teach ways to defuse conflict and redirect behavior into more positive channels.

Article By: Christopher Wyatt, President & CEO

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