What Are Security Guards Allowed To Do

What Are Security Guards Allowed To Do? A Complete Guide

Security guards are an integral part of maintaining safety for people and property. They are responsible for monitoring and enforcing security measures to prevent unauthorized access, theft, and vandalism. However, it is important to note that security guards have certain limitations on what actions they can legally take. In order to ensure the safety of all parties involved, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of a security guard’s responsibilities and abilities. This includes knowledge of their legal limitations, such as the use of force and detainment.

Responsibilities Of Security Guards:

Security guards have a range of responsibilities focused on prevention and response. Typical duties of a security guard include:

Patrolling The Premises:

One of the primary and focused duties of a security guard is to patrol their assigned area. This involves walking or driving around of the property regularly to maintain a security presence and look for any suspicious activity. Guards will patrol indoor spaces as well as outdoor areas like parking lots. Having guards actively patrolling is a deterrent to criminals and allows guards to identify risks before they escalate.

Responding To Emergencies:

Security guards are expected to be ready to handle emergencies. This could include responding to a burglary, break-in or theft. Guards must assess the situation and take appropriate action, such as confronting suspects, contacting the police, or setting off alarm systems. They also respond to medical emergencies, fires, natural disasters, and other crises until first responders arrive.

Checking Identification:

Security guards check IDs and authorise people to enter the premises. At office buildings or apartment complexes, they verify the identities of visitors and issue temporary badges. At entertainment venues or nightclubs, they check patrons’ IDs to confirm legal drinking age requirements are met. Guards need to be able to spot fake IDs and deny entry to unauthorised individuals.

Enforcing Rules and Regulations:

Guards enforce rules and regulations to maintain order and safety on the premises. They ensure people follow protocols like not smoking indoors, parking only in designated areas, keeping noise levels down after hours, and generally complying with the organisation or property’s codes of conduct. Security personnel can only allow entry or remove those following the rules.

Reporting Incidents:

Security guards must fully document all incidents like criminal activity, policy violations, safety hazards, and other issues throughout their shifts. Written incident reports are crucial for identifying patterns, liabilities, necessary responses, and evidence if police get involved. Thorough reporting also helps security management improve protocols.

What Security Guards Can Do And Can’t Do:

In most jurisdictions, security guards have limited authority that is carefully regulated. Understanding the extent of their powers helps guards perform their duties properly. Below are some examples of what security guards can and can’t legally do in most cases:

Security Guard Can Do:

  • Ask individuals to see their ID or leave the premises if they refuse
  • Use reasonable force for restraint or removal if a person becomes physically aggressive
  • Conduct pat downs or limited searches with consent
  • Make a citizen’s arrest for crimes committed directly in their presence
  • Detain individuals who committed a crime until police can assume custody
  • Require bags, coats and containers to be checked or left behind as a condition of entry
  • Lock doors, close/block access to restricted areas, or modify the opening hours of a facility
  • Evacuate people from buildings or areas in case of emergencies or violations

Can Security Guard Touch You?

Security guards have limited authority to touch or physically interact with people. Guards can legally:

  • Guide individuals out of an area or off the premises through light touching
  • Use reasonable force to take control in a violent or dangerous situation
  • Restrain combative individuals until police arrive
  • Perform limited pat downs with consent to check for weapons

Any physical contact by guards must be reasonable and proportional to the circumstances. Indiscriminate touching or use of force is prohibited. Guards cannot get physical solely to enforce compliance with rules or punish disobedience.

Can the Security Guard Search You?

Security guards do not have the authority to conduct total personal searches. They can ask to look in bags, coats, containers, etc., as a condition of entry. Guards may only pat down an individual’s outer clothing if they specifically consent. Extensive searches that go under garments without consent constitute assault. Guards cannot force compliance with search requests if a person refuses. They can deny entry or ask the person to leave instead.

Security Guard Can’t Do:

  • Violate an individual’s civil rights or use discrimination based on protected characteristics like race, gender, etc.
  • Use force or restraint without justification (e.g. individual not posing an active threat)
  • Search personal property like bags or vehicles without consent
  • Seize items from people without a legal basis
  • Physically detain someone who has not committed a crime witnessed firsthand
  • Compel ID, questioning, searches, etc. without cause
  • Make arrests beyond citizen’s arrests permitted by law
  • Exceed limits on authorities granted by security license and training

Ultimately, guards have limited authority over law enforcement officers. Any conduct beyond properly confined duties can expose guards and employers to lawsuits or loss of licensing.


Security guards have essential responsibilities but also clear legal limits on their powers. Guards may conduct limited searches and use physical restraints, provided they are reasonable and proportional. However, they cannot engage in activities like forceful seizures, arbitrary detention, or personal searches without consent except in very narrow circumstances.

Awareness of what security guards can and cannot legally do helps maintain clear expectations. Security personnel should focus on prevention, observation, reporting, and deterrence. They must avoid activities that infringe on civil liberties or overstep their carefully defined roles. With proper training on appropriate procedures and limits, security guards can effectively fulfil their duty to protect without compromising individual rights.

The key is finding the right balance. Guards must have enough latitude to provide security while ensuring methods do not exceed what is lawful and ethical. Understanding proper protocols helps security guards and the general public navigate their interactions while maintaining a just, safe environment.

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