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When Police Walk the Security Beat

NCJ Number
Security Management Volume: 43 Issue: 10 Dated: October 1999 Pages: 39-45
David H. Peck
Date Published
October 1999
4 pages
This article identifies legal issues related to the hiring of off-duty police officers as security officers for private companies.
An off-duty police officer continues to act under the "color of law" when employed as a private security officer, making the officer potentially liable for misconduct under Section 1983 of the U.S. Code, which prohibits State officials or other persons acting under the authority granted to them by the State from violating a person's constitutional rights. Although this may be a disadvantage in hiring off-duty police officers, one advantage of employing such officers is that they have a qualified privilege to use force and make arrests. This means that when an off-duty officer uses force or makes arrests within the legal parameters set for police officers, then the private employer cannot be held liable for any injuries that result from an officer's proper use of force and arrest powers. To avoid liability for negligently hiring an off-duty police officer who engages in misconduct as a security officer, an employer should, at a minimum, become familiar with the police department's screening criteria and policies to determine whether they are reasonable. Conducting an independent background check may also be advisable. When off-duty police officers act in their capacity as a private security officer, they must still comply with the legal requirements of the Miranda warning and the laws pertaining to searches. Failure to comply with such requirements can lead to the court's exclusion of evidence in a criminal case that stems from the off-duty officer's actions as a security officer.


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