Magazine article Security Management

A Loaded Question

Magazine article Security Management

A Loaded Question

Article excerpt

A Loaded Question

TO ARM OR NOT TO ARM A security officer is a question many security professionals are faced with at some time during their careers - and one that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, even after careful evaluation. One consideration is clear, however - every organization has a moral and legal responsibility to provide a safe premises.

Opponents of firearms for private security personnel argue that the responsibility of security officers in most situations is to protect property. The introduction of a firearms into a confrontation escalates the situation, especially when the security officer has only minimal training, which is the rule rather than the exception. Proponents of arming private security personnel theorize that if an organization is requiring its security officers to protect life and property, shouldn't it also provide the security officer with the tools to perform effectively? Proponents also argue for the deterrent value of an armed security force. There is, however, no way to determine if an armed security force prevented an incident that an unarmed security force would not have prevented.(1)

A significant trend in the security industry has been an overall reduction in the percentage of armed security personnel. Many contract security firms discourage client requests for firearms on the grounds that they are not necessary and create liability and insurance problems. However, requests for armed personnel are granted when required by governmental regulation, organizations such as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or assignments involving protecting large sums of cash or highly vulnerable assets.(2)

The following five factors should be taken into consideration when a company is faced with the dilemma of arming guards:

* Vulnerability. The degree of risk assumed by the security officer in carrying out his or her responsibilities and the degree of vulnerability the organization faces must be considered. For instance, the security officer on foot patrol at 3:00 am in a high-crime housing development is at a higher risk than the security officer monitoring a console in the lobby of an office building.

* Liability. Serious consequences can result for both employers and employees when security personnel are required to carry firearms - self-injury through weapon mishandling, injury to others such as innocent bystanders, and criminal or civil suits against both the employer and the employee as a result of those action.(3) There is no doubt that armed security officers create a much greater liability potential than unarmed security officers. If a security officer misuses his or her firearm or accidentally shoots an innocent bystander, a lawsuit is inevitable. However, proponents of arming security personnel claim that an unarmed security officer who is unable to prevent injury to an employee or a visitor might also create a liability.

* Caliber of the existing force. If your organization is opening a new facility requiring a security force or if you do not have an existing force, then this is not a relevant issue for your organization. Is your present staff mature, responsible, and stable enough to carry a firearm? Will it pass firearms training? What are current salary levels? The existing wages of your unarmed staff will be obsolete.

* Public relations. The public relations impact of a weapon on a security officer's hip is another factor to be considered. The presence of a firearm is a powerful deterrent to criminal activity but may also have a negative public relations value. …

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