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Security Guards: What Are Their Powers and Limitations

Whether you are interested in hiring security guards for your home or business, considering a role in security or a member of the public.  It is always good to know what a security officer’s powers and limitations are. Security guards play a crucial role in maintaining safety in multiple settings including retail, residential, offices, universities, hospitals etc. As what they do is so ingrained in our daily lives, it would only be natural to be curious about what they do!

In this blog, we will get a better understanding of this exact topic as well as learn more about the security industry. 

What Security Guards Can & Can’t Do

Although security guards work closely with police and other emergency services it doesn’t mean they have the same power as them. Security officers are trained to monitor and be diligent so they minimise security breaches like break-ins, theft, robbery, and even a hostile aggressive situation. 


Same as the public, security guards are not allowed to carry any weapons such as guns, batons, tasers, or pepper spray, which the police can do. What they can do is use a handcuff to detain someone after a citizen’s arrest is made and detain the person until the police arrive. 

Did you know as a member of the public anyone can make a citizen’s arrest? Including you or me! 

When detaining you, they are carrying out a citizen’s arrest and the rules they must follow are set out in Section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act
  • They witness or have reasonable grounds to believe a person has committed a crime.
  • They witness or have reasonable grounds to believe a person is in the act of committing a crime.
  • To protect a person from causing injury to themselves or others.
  • To protect a person from causing property damage.
  • To prevent a person from leaving the scene before a police officer arrives to assume responsibility.
Do Security Guards Have the Right to Touch Someone?

Security guards have the authority to use reasonable force to detain individuals who are suspected of committing a crime or posing a threat. This may include physically touching the individual to restrain them until law enforcement arrives. However, security guards are not allowed to use excessive force or cause harm to the individual being detained. Security guards need to be trained in the proper use of force techniques to ensure the safety of both themselves and the individuals they are detaining. Additionally, security guards must follow specific protocols and guidelines set by their employers and local laws to ensure that their actions are lawful and justified.

Types of Searches Security Guards Can Conduct

A security guard can only search an individual and their belongings with their consent. If they refuse, security guards cannot search them. However, if the individual is suspected of concealing stolen items and refuses a search, the guard can detain them until the police arrive for a legal search.

Guards can search unsupervised property for safety reasons, such as bomb threats, or if someone is found unconscious and they need to identify them or find medications for a health crisis.

When conducting a residential security assignment, security guards are authorised to perform searches, including car searches, as they will be entering private property. They may also conduct searches while controlling and securing access to buildings and large estates, whether they are private or commercial.

Security Guard Identification 

Security personnel MUST ALWAYS display their licence and badge, security guards are also required to wear a uniform that identifies them as security personnel. This uniform typically includes a hi-visibility vest or jacket with the word “security” prominently displayed. 

If a security guard loses their badge, they must report it to the SIA immediately to request a replacement. In the meantime, they are still permitted to work as long as they can provide proof of their identity and licensing status to their employer. Failure to display a badge can result in disciplinary action by the SIA, including revocation of the licence.

Security Guard VS Door Supervisor

The main difference is that someone who holds a door supervisor license is allowed to work in venues where alcohol will be consumed

So if you were thinking of hiring security, for example, a private event then you will need to think about whether there will be alcohol involved or not. If there is then you will need to hire someone who has a door supervisor license and not a security guarding license. 

However other than that their roles and responsibilities are very similar. For both licenses, security officers need to take top-up (refresher) courses each year along with an emergency first aid at work course. 

All SIA approved security guards must pass a DBS check, which is a criminal background check. if they fail this, they will not be allowed to apply for an SIA license or enroll in a course. 
In Conclusion

Security officers have the authority to enforce rules and regulations on the property they are assigned to protect. They can detain individuals for questioning and have the right to use reasonable force to protect themselves and others. However, their power is limited compared to law enforcement officers, as they do not have the authority to carry weapons. Security officers must also operate within the boundaries of the law and cannot exceed their designated responsibilities. Security officers need to be aware of their powers and limitations to ensure they are acting under the law and maintaining a safe environment for all individuals on the property.

Gurkha Security Services Guarantee For Your Peace Of Mind

As an SIA-approved contractor, we assure you that our team undergoes thorough vetting, holds up-to-date licenses, qualifications, and receives ongoing training. Each of our manned guarding security personnel possesses verified SIA licenses and has successfully passed DBS checks and right-to-work assessments. They are exclusively employed by Gurkha Security Services on a full-time basis, with no involvement as self-employed or subcontracted individuals.

Our security officers are comprehensively insured, exceeding the industry’s minimum requirements (details available upon request).

Furthermore, our security personnel are under constant surveillance from a manned 24/7 control room, ensuring swift response to any incidents or emergencies.

We prioritize the welfare of our security guards, treating them with the utmost dignity and respect. Our dedicated team enjoys numerous benefits and is encouraged to maintain a healthy work-life balance, free from exploitation or mistreatment.

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