Pros and cons of hiring police officers to engage in private security workAbstractHiring police officers to perform private security work has positive aspects and potential pitfalls. Business owners vary in their opinion on hiring police officers. Liability and cost are reasons some prefer to hire private security guards or take other security measures. Other business owners prefer the training, professionalism, deterrence, and authority that come with hiring a police officer. Due to lawsuits involving off-duty police officers, the Courts have had to develop tests to determine when a moonlighting police officer is working under the authority of the private company or in the role of a peace officer. Issues have arisen about the difference in police mentality and retail service.
Some argue that police officers are not trained in the motto that the 'customer is always right'. Others believe additional training can bridge the gap. Hiring off-duty police officers is big business and a growing field that benefits the community and the officer. Pros and cons of hiring police officers to engage in private security work The employment of off-duty officers in private security is a big business. An estimated 150, 000 law enforcement officers engage in private security work on off-duty hours, and their combined income reaches $1. 8 billion annually.
The combined revenue of secondary police officer employment exceeds that of the combined top four security companies in 1988 (Trimble 1993). There are many positive aspects of the program that benefit the community and the officer. But to some the positives aspects do not outweigh the negative consequences of hiring police officers. In this paper, I will discuss the positive and negative aspects of hiring police officers for private security details, as well as, my personal experience, case law, and the polices of different police departments. HIRING OFF-DUTY POLICE OFFICERS Why would a company want to pay for a police officer to work a security detail at their store or facility? Police officers generally cost more to hire than a traditional security guard. What are the advantages that justify the cost? First, let's define what is an off-duty police officer? Police are traditionally thought to be on-duty 24 hours a day.
When officers are not actually working at the department, their law enforcement authority is in a type of reserve status. It is not necessary for an officer to be working the streets to invoke his police powers. Business and officers have taken advantage of this reserved status by hiring police for personal protection for their property and the latter to supplement their income. I have known business to hire officers to control crowds at a bar or large events, provide plain clothes surveillance or uniform presence in a shopping mall, escort a manager around to his different stores to make cash pickups, and provide a presence and deterrence against theft and robbery. For example, Hispanic grocery stores, particularly those that do checking cashing, carry lots of cash. Nearly all Hispanics at the store I worked off-duty at paid for purchases in cash.
Before the owner hired police officers, a gang of armed men robbed his store and several other Hispanic stores with in a months time. They made off with an average about $20, 000 from each robbery. The night of the robbery, during the course of the initial investigation, the owner inquired about hiring a police officer at night to provide security. The average rate at that time was $20 per hour. He wanted an officer from 6: 00 pm until he locked the store around 10: 30 pm. This security detail would be one officer in uniform seven days a week.
The annual cost of the security detail would be $33, 600. If having a police officer on site prevents two robberies a year, at $20, 000 apiece, then the detail pays for itself. But how can you determine the effectiveness of the program? Well, at one point after the armed gang was caught, the owner thought about cutting back the detail to four days a week in order to save money. I advised him that would not be wise because of the following reasons.
First, numerous other robberies of Hispanic stores had occurred despite the gang's capture. All the stores that were hit did not have a police officer on site. Second, robbers will case the store and once they determined that an officer is not working that night they will be clear to come in and rob the store. He agreed that risk of being robbed on the days were officers were not on site was high enough to warrant continuing the detail seven days a week.
Its is part of the officer's role to advise the employer of security concerns and measures that he should be aware of. Something a security guard with limited training and experience might not be able to provide. POLICE OFFICER VIRUS SECURITY GUARDI have already touched on some of the advantages of hiring police officers; here I will discuss these aspects in more detail. One big advantage police officers have over security guards is the power of arrest.
The ability to take away someone's freedom and rights is a serious and powerful instrument. Not even the President of the United States has the power to directly take away someone's rights and freedom by arrest. A police officer can take immediate action in the event of a situation. A security guard has a very limited scope of authority and in the event of a criminal action will need the assistance and authority of the police. I think the power of arrest is not the most significant advantage of hiring police officers. It's the power of presence and persuasion.
A police officer in uniform will demand more respect from the general public than that of a security guard. A police officer standing at the door of a store or outside a club puts the patrons and criminals on notice that the law and government authority is close at hand. It is impossible to quantify the number of crimes that do not occur because a police officer is present at a particular location, but there are a number of example that support the notion. In St. Petersburg, Fl.
A shopping mall hired a guard service to have to security guards patrol the shopping center at a rate of $7. 15 an hour. Robberies and shoplifting occurred regularly at the shopping center. The store owners decided to contribute to a special fun to hire off-duty police officers to patrol on Fridays and Saturdays.
Suddenly the crime rate decreased. Shoplifting was down and robberies no loner occurred. The owners elected to hire officers from 10 am to 10 pm everyday and fire the guard service. Pat Cowart, spokesperson for the owners of the shopping mall says, "The unarmed private security guards don't have the authority to do anything and the criminal know that." (Malcolm 1989). Minyard Food Stores has decided to hire off-duty police officers rather than private security guards for patrols in its stores.
Minyard executives decided that the modern criminal only respects the power of law enforcement officers, and that the unarmed guard has become obsolete. In addition the dangers of being sued by an employee, guard, or customer because of apparent negligence in not reducing security risks makes the added expense worthwhile. The retailer will use 230 officers over its 82 stores to provide security inside and out side the stores. 'The private guard is of no value to us anymore and we hire nothing but off-duty police officers,' stated Ben Rowe, Director of Risk Management for Minyard Foods (O'Leary 1996). In Snellville, Georgia, police officers were hired to patrol a commercial shopping corridor along Stone Mountain Highway during the holiday season. There are no direct numbers to establish the crimes actually thwart by the officers presence, but crime in that area was down during the time the officers were on patrol in the shopping centers (Brooks).
Criminals, especially your street level drug user, are not interested in investing a lot of time or energy in the commission of their crime. They would much prefer a soft target then a hard target. A hard target being police officers on site as well as other security measures. One might ask is a security guard posted at an entrance to a store as effective as a police officer? I think a security guard has a deterrent value, but not at the level of a police officer. The police represent a definite government power. The public perceptions of the two professions are quite different.
Despite the advantages of hiring off duty police, there are several pitfalls. LIABILITY IN HIRING OFF-DUTY POLICE Hiring a police officer to work security at your establishment can be a liability. Most companies hire officers because of their training and arrest powers, but owners may find themselves liable if the officer acts in an egregious manner. Private employers need to understand the legal ramifications. In the doctrine of respond eat superior, employers are liable for their employees' actions while they are employed in the firm's business (Trimble 1993).
Depending on the circumstances the police officer, the private employer, the police department, or a combination of the three may be held liable for the officer's tortuous act. The courts have ruled that if an off-duty police officer is working within the scope of his or her employment as a police officer, his or her actions receive the same protection as an officer on-duty. But if the officer acts in a manner that is deemed excessive or outside the limits of the officer's authority then multiple parties may be held liable. Just because an officer is in uniform and using department issued equipment to work off duty, he is not necessarily acting in the capacity of a police officer. If he is working off-duty then he is an employee of the private company. His police powers lie dormant until an emergency arises.
At that moment he is no longer an employee of the private company, but acting under his authority as a police officer. The question becomes who is liable under what circumstances? If an officer acts in an excessive manner while enforcing company policy and is not involved in enforcing state or local law, it is likely that the company and not the department will be viewed as liable. For example, if an officer breaks a persons arm while tossing him out of a bar on the owners request, then the officer is enforcing company policy as no criminal act has occurred. But, if there was a stabbing in the bar and during the arrest the suspect's arm was broken, the defense may claim that the department and officer are liable for excessive use of force during arrest. Although in this case the claim would most likely be thrown out, because officers are protected by qualified privilege from a charge resulting from a legal arrest, as long as the use of force used to make the arrest was not excessive. Several court cases have defined the nature of who is liable.
CASE LAW In Groom v. Safeway, a Seattle police officer was hired to work security at a Safeway grocery store. The officer was in uniform issued by the Seattle PD. The store manager saw a customer in the store with a bag of prawns, a few minutes later the bag was gone.
The manager thought the customer had put the prawn in her purse, when in fact she had put them in her friend's shopping cart. The manager notified the officer of the potential shoplifting. The officer asked to search the customer's purse and she refused. An altercation ensued, and the customer was placed in handcuffs and detained.
She remained there until her friend showed up with the prawns. She sued Safeway for unreasonable search and detention. The courts agreed with the customer's claim that Safeway had failed to train the officer on how to deal with customers. The court also cited that the officer, his uniform, badge, and gun were all hired to serve Safeway's goal of deterring theft (Beaver).
The courts have developed tests to determine the scope of a police officer's employment and who could be held liable. In State v. Kurtz, 78 Ariz. 215, 278 P. 2 d 406 (Ariz.
1954), the Court had to answer the question of whether off-duty officers engaged in private employment lose their official status to the extent that their acts necessarily become those of private citizens. The Court asked whether the officers were 'acting in 'vindication of public right and justice' or were they merely performing acts of service to their private employer?' In Kurtz, the court ruled that the officers who were working as security guards at a ballroom were acting in their official capacity when they broke up a disturbance. A similar test was developed in State v. Wilen. In State v.
Wilen, 4 Neb. App. 132, 539 N. W. 2 d 650 (Neb. App.
1995), the Court examined (1) the specific nature, extent, and circumstances of the secondary employment; (2) the manner in which such secondary employment is regarded by the employer and employee; and (3) the nature of the acts the peace officer... is performing at the time in question. The Court used these two tests in White v Revco. In White v. Revco Disc. Drug Ctr.
, Inc. , 37 S. W. 3 d 885 (Tenn. App.
2001), the defendant Boone is a police officer for the City of Knoxville, and works off duty as a security guard for a Revco drug store. On May 4, 1997, Woodfin entered the Revco store and allegedly caused a disturbance. At the time of the disturbance, Boone was working off duty as a security officer at the store and issued Woodfin a citation for disorderly conduct, and warned him to stay out of the store. On June 4, 1997, the store manager, James Lavin, informed Boone while working off-duty again at the store that the Woodfin had returned to the store. It is alleged that while under the direction and control of Revco and within the scope of his employment there, Boone checked with the Knoxville Police Department and learned that Woodfin did not report to jail for booking on May 19, 1997, as ordered under the citation issued by Boone. As a result of his failure to appear, a bench warrant had been issued for Woodfin's arrest.
Lavin ordered Boone to go to the Woodfin's apartment and serve the warrant to prevent Woodfin from ever returning to Revco and to punish Woodfin for coming back to the store. With several other police officers to assist him in arresting Woodfin, they went to his apartment. Boone and the other officers demanded Woodfin to come out of his apartment. He refused and told Boone and the other officers that he would shoot them if they entered his apartment. He closed and locked the door to his apartment.
Boone and the other officers contacted the landlord, to get a key so that they could gain access to the apartment. Prior to the arrival of the key, Boone was called back to Revco to issue a citation to a shoplifter. Boone later returned to the apartment where he was given the key. Boone unlocked and opened the back door to the apartment. Once inside, Boone and the officers realized that Woodfin had locked himself in the bathroom. The officers ordered him out of the bathroom, but he refused and told them that he had a shotgun.
Officer Maxwell, a defendant in the case, kicked the bathroom door open and fired at Woodfin, killing him. Plaintiffs allege that Boone used 'excessive force, unlawful battery, and assisted in causing the wrongful death of Woodfin.' They assert that Revco is liable as the employer of Boone under the doctrine of respond eat superior. The Court applied the test used in Kurtz and Wilen. The Court stated that although Revco initiated the citation, Woodfin's failure to appear in court on the charge resulted in the issuance of a bench warrant. Service of a warrant is certainly within the scope of a law enforcement officer's authority. Serving the warrant on Woodfin was in 'vindication of public right and justice' and not an act of service to the private employer, in this case Revco.
The court did decide that private employers may be held vicariously liable for the acts of an off-duty police officer in these three circumstances: If the officer's action was within the scope of private employment, If the action was outside the scope of private employment but was taken at the employer's direction and was the proximate cause of the harm, or If the action was taken with the consent of the private employer and was intended to benefit the employer (Scarlett 2001). The Court dismissed the suit. These cases and precedents are important for private employers and police officers to know. It is a fine balancing act between working within the scope of the private employer and that of a peace officer. In the Revco case, I think it was unnecessary and over the top for the manager to pull the officer from the store and order the officer to execute the warrant on Woodfin. Revco is fortunate that the Court denied the claim under the doctrine of respond eat superior.
Cooler heads should have prevailed and manager should have requested the officer try to serve the warrant the next time his was working for the Department, thereby removing all liability from Revco's. Another disadvantage of hiring police officers to work in the private sector is police officer mentality. POLICE OFFICER MENALILTY Police officers are trained to deal with people in high stress situations. They are not trained in the police academy that the customer is always right. For the most part, a police officer's world is black and white. If you did the crime, you are going to do the time.
In the world of business and customer service, the customer is always right. If there is any doubt about whether the customer stole something, left it go. It is much better to lose a $25 pair of sunglasses, then it would to pay the cost of defending company in a wrongful detention lawsuit, as in Groom v Safeway. The bad publicity that would be generated from the lawsuit certainly does not warrant taking a chance of reclaiming a $25 pair of sunglasses. The sometimes aggressive nature of law enforcement does not carry over well into the private sector.
The last thing a retail owner want to see is a person being handcuffed and walked though the store. Its can be unnerving to customers (Eiserer, 2001). Police officer's have a mentality. If you break the law you go to jail. Private security guards abide by the wishes of the employer, who may or may not seek prosecution. An incident at an Eddie Bauer store highlights the difference between law enforcement and retail.
In the 1995, Eddie Bauer was holding a warehouse sale and had hired off-duty police officers for traffic control and to discourage shoplifters and armed robbers. Police officers were checking customer receipts as shoppers left the warehouse. The officers believed a teenager leaving the store had stolen a shirt he was wearing. The youth tried to tell them he had purchased it the day before at the sale. The officers made him leave the shirt behind and told him to retrieve the receipt (Eiserer, 2001). The fall out for Eddie Bauer from this incident could be significant.
Lawsuits and bad public relations are not worth the cost of the shirt. This highlights the difference in the mindset of retailers and police officers. While that type of action may be appropriate in the law enforcement arena, it is certainly a practice the retailers would not endorse. Despite the difference, some retailers have written polices that require only the hiring off-duty police. Dillard's is one of those stores. They have had a long-standing policy requiring the hiring of off-duty police.
Dillard's prefers off-duty police to help curtail the $200 million annual loss from shoplifting thefts (Eiserer, 2001). Reducing the cost of litigation stemming from false arrest and detentions was a main factor in the establishment of the policy. Dillard's says they are committed to the safety of its customers and staff. This policy has not been without controversy. Since 1994, five people have died from contractions with police hired to work security at Dillard's.
There have been numerous lawsuits filed against Dillard's claiming the company targets minorities. A charge the company strongly denies. Dillard's states the incidents of loss of life or injury are rare and tragic, critics do not take into account the countless incidents where officers have protected innocent people and saved lives (Eiserer, 2001). Other companies take a different approach.
May Co, the parent company of Lord & Taylor and Foley's, only hires unarmed civilian security personnel. Sears has hired police officers to work part time in the asset protection program. They are not in uniform and unarmed. Sears states they are not hired because of their capacity as a police officer. I disagree. The main reason they are hired is because of their training, experience, and qualifications as a police officer.
If they were plumbers, they most likely would not get the job. Also, if an incident were to occur in the store, the officers are bound by department policy and / or state law to intervene as a law enforcement officer. The moment the officer responds to the incident he is no longer is employed by Sears. Sears is trying to have the best of both worlds. CONCLUSION There are many positive reasons to hire police officers to work private security jobs. Private business owners need to be aware of the possible pitfalls that come with hiring an off-duty police officer.
I think there is little question about the value police officers carry while working in a private capacity. Some companies are so convinced of the value of off- duty police that they have instituted polices that require only hiring of police officers. In today's society, where authority is not always respected, security guards just do not have the presence needed to deter and prevent. Business owners that prefer to have a security officer who has had hundreds of hours of training, experience in conflict resolution, the ability to enforce laws, and invoke the power of arrest will look to hire police officers rather than security guards. Even those security guards who are armed do not project the same presence and deterrence factor as a peace officer. But business owners need to aware of the fact they can be held liable in certain situations.
And just because you are hiring a police officer does not mean that there should not be in store training in how to deal with customers and expectation in the retail world. There has been case law passed down to determine at what point an officer ceases to be employed by a private company and reverts back to law enforcement powers. If the officer is enforcing company policy or under the direction of the company's authority, then the company may be liable. But if an officer is performing a function that is within the scope his law enforcement duties the company will mostly likely not be held liable. The courts look at if the act was in 'vindication of public right and justice' or an act of service to the private employer.
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