Emerging Issues in Security

Long Past Time for National Security Guard Licensing Standards

Licensing requirements for security officers varies around the United States from nothing to a lot. The lack of federal or state oversight for the licensing of armed security officers varies similarly, with even more rules for armed, exposed firearms permits versus armed, concealed permits for security officers working corporate or undercover functions.

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Brent Modral is the cofounder and chief operating officer for Colorado Springs-based Mercurial Security Solutions. He is a British army veteran, a former Montana sheriff’s deputy, and an operator with significant experience working security details in Iraq and Afghanistan. His firm provides security officers, training, and consulting.

When asked why we don’t have one set of security officer licensing standards in the United States, he said, “I believe it has something to do with apathy and/or funding on the part of the U.S. government and the fact no federal level department exists solely for private security. I’m assuming the Department of Homeland Security would want no part in governing private security at the state or local level. In many cases, state level organizations such as the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) in Colorado want no part of it. I would also say the powers that be would claim it’s a constitutional issue, in that every state has an inherent right to defend itself, therefore, anything to do with a state’s security should be regulated at that state level. It could also be the reluctance of security companies, too, in that if an industry is federally regulated salaries and pricing could be regulated and we know how these national and regional companies like to nickel-and-dime each other, making the end user suffer. Guards making minimum wages help ensure a lower caliber of guard for the client.”

He discussed California’s stricter licensing mandates, which differ from what he deals with in Colorado. “I think any state willing to regulate its security at a local level is ahead of the curve. There are many similarities in how California regulates security guards, similar with many other states, such as an initial application process and background checks, however, California’s system is not without its flaws. The first step—an initial eight hours of training—can be completed online. It consists of four hours of arrest procedures even though security guards are afforded no powers of arrest other than citizen’s arrest. The remaining four hours is literature concerning weapons of mass destruction. Hardly seems appropriate training since an individual can essentially begin his or her career in security following this training, after the application for licensing and the background checks are complete. There is a requirement to complete an additional 32 hours of training after that but an individual has six months to complete that. One can argue that even in California we could have ill-trained and inexperienced security guards.”

Modral has concerns about the impact of the lack of national licensing standards, which may help plaintiff’s attorneys win their cases against guard firms and/or their clients. “In any legal case, it’s about who’s to blame and who can present the best argument to lay that blame. Having no national standard to regulate training gives plaintiff’s attorneys a very easy in. Even if a state does have a regulatory body, checks and balances on the quality or content of training provided are rarely checked. In the case of Colorado Springs, the city mandates the number of hours that must be provided but doesn’t stipulate the content and I would argue that is systemic across the nation. In a nutshell, if cracks can be found such as in training, an individual or a security company will always be held liable.”