Security Officer Regulation: A Statutory Analysis

By Hemmens, Craig; Maahs, Jeffrey R. | Security Management, December 1997 | Go to article overview

Security Officer Regulation: A Statutory Analysis


Hemmens, Craig, Maahs, Jeffrey R., Security Management


States are taking a more active role in the regulation of security officers than in the past, according to research conducted by the authors at Boise State University, in Boise, Idaho. In 1981. only 66 percent of states regulated private security officer services in some manner. Presently, 82 percent of states regulate private security at the employee level.

The study examined state provisions governing security officer selection and training in the forty-three states that have related statutes: it was completed in the spring of 1997.

Despite the increase in the number of stales with relevant statutes, the extent of state regulation of security officers remains quite limited. For example, only two states (Hawaii and Michigan) set a minimum education level - the eighth grade. In addition, regulation levels among the states vary considerably. What passes for regulation in some states is little more than asking an applicant to promise that he or she is qualified to be a security officer. The following highlights provide an overview of the findings.

Hiring prerequisites. Of the forty-three states that set statutory prerequisites for the hiring of security officers, fourteen require that applicants be either citizens or legal residents of the United States, while twenty-two states have a minimum age requirement. The most common minimum age for both armed and unarmed security officers is eighteen years; however, some states have different age requirements depending on whether the officer is armed.

Criminal history. The most common statutory requirements for hiring are for fingerprinting - twenty-four states - and criminal records checks of security officer applicants - twenty-one states. A few states explicitly set forth the process by which this should be done. For example, New York requires that the fingerprints be mailed to the secretary of state, who then runs a criminal history check and returns the results to the employer.

Ten states require an "employee statement," which typically includes basic employment information and the employee's testimony that he or she meets the requirements for the position. While some of the states with this requirement are among those that also conduct a criminal check, the remaining states have no way of verifying the applicant's statement.

Of the twenty-four states that check criminal history, all but one disqualify applicants who have ever been convicted of a felony. Most states that disqualify felons do so for all felons. Five states, however, disqualify felons only if the offense occurred recently, and four states prohibit security employers from "knowingly" hiring a felon.

In addition to felony exclusions, many states provide a list of nonfelony offenses that disqualify security officer applicants. Crimes that commonly appear on these lists include misdemeanors, acts of violence. sex offenses, drug offenses, weapons offenses, and theft. Thirteen states disqualify persons convicted of offenses involving "moral turpitude."

Other states employ general blanket prohibitions. For example, Washington excludes applicants who have committed any crime that relates to the duties of the job, while Connecticut excludes those who have committed any offense that would call into question their honesty or integrity.

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