Security Guards vs. Police Officers: What Is the Difference Between a Police Officer and a Security Guard?

Security Guards vs. Police Officers: What Is the Difference Between a Police Officer and a Security Guard?

Are security guards law enforcement, police officers, peace officers, or cops?

The short answer is no – security guards are not considered police officers or law enforcement. Security guards are contract personnel often hired by private businesses while police officers are law enforcement employees representing the government. They differ in their qualifications, responsibilities, training, authority, and legal powers.

Let us discuss the 5 differences between security guards and police officers more in detail below.

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Side-By-Side Comparison: Key Differences Between Security Guards & Police Officers

Key Differences Between Security Guards & Police Officers

Security GuardsPolice Officers
General DescriptionPrivate employeesPublic (government) servants
Place of Employment Often private companies and organizationsGovernment agencies (local, county, state, or federal)
Authority & Legal Powers– Limited powers of arrest
– They can detain suspects depending on the jurisdiction
– Detaining and arresting criminal offenders
– Issuing citations & conducting searches
Duties & Responsibilities– Limited to surveillance tasks
– Enforce policies on their assigned property and protect the interest of their client
– Serve the public and enforce laws for public safety both in public and private properties
Training & LicensingClass D & Class G security licenseDepends on the jurisdiction
Work HoursCan be part-time employees who watch over your property 24/7, especially during vulnerable hoursFull-time employees working 40 hours a week

Also Read: How to Hire a Security Guard Company: 7 Factors to Consider When Hiring Security Guards

Similarities Between Law Enforcement (Police Officers) & Security Guards

Similarities Between Law Enforcement (Police Officers) & Security Guards

Before we proceed to the differences between law enforcement and security guards, below are the key similarities between the two:

  • A responsibility to maintain public safety
  • Wearing uniforms to distinguish them from the crowd
  • Carrying the same security equipment such as batons, tasers, pepper sprays, and firearms (for armed security guards)
  • Passing background checks to ensure that they don’t have a criminal history

5 Differences Between Security Guards & Police Officers

5 Differences Between Security Guards & Police Officers

Though security guards and police officers look and act similarly in many situations, their similarities often don’t go beyond their commitment to public safety.

#1. Place of Employment

Police officers, or law enforcement officers, work for the government (local, county, state, or federal). Security officers represent private businesses and individuals. 

Police officers serve an expansive domain that covers entire cities or communities to uphold government laws and ensure public safety as well as respond to their complaints. On the other hand, security guards are hired by individuals or businesses to safeguard their premises. They provide highly visible crime deterrents for retail hubs, industrial sites, entertainment venues, and even commercial real estate properties.

Also Read: 15 Top Qualities of a Good Security Guard: Skills to Look For

#2. Authority & Legal Powers

Security guards act as agents of the business or property owner and primarily protect private spaces. Some states allow them to detain suspected individuals within their jurisdiction (i.e. the property they are tasked to secure) until law enforcement arrives. They can also question suspicious individuals in the property which is not included in a police officer’s legal powers, but that’s that. They cannot arrest people.

On the other hand, police officers have the power to enforce laws, make arrests, issue citations, investigate crimes, or conduct searches in both public and private spaces. Security guards cannot stop people or vehicles that don’t pose an immediate threat and should contact law enforcement when a situation becomes beyond their control in which using force or making an arrest is necessary.

NOTE: Security officers who were given special police status have the same arrest powers as police officers when they are acting within their scope of authority.

Moreover, police officers are trained and licensed to carry firearms and can use force under legal circumstances. As for security guards, only guards with the right certifications and licenses to carry firearms can do so.

Also Read: Security Guard Legal Powers: What They Can and Can’t Do

#3. Duties & Responsibilities

Police officers enforce laws and serve the public to ensure public safety. Security guards enforce policies and security protocols as per their client’s interests.

Roles of Security Guards

The duties and responsibilities of security guards will depend on the needs of the client which is you – the business owner or property manager. That is, they are focused on protecting your property based on the specific rules you provide them.

Security guards protect your property, assets, employees, and customers by:

  • Identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities
  • Looking out for signs of a crime (e.g. thefts, break-ins, etc.)
  • Conducting regular patrols
  • Controlling access
  • Checking credentials
  • Enforcing your company policies and security protocols
  • Providing customer and employee assistance
  • Responding to emergencies and alarms
  • Collaborating with law enforcement during emergencies

Also Read: 12 Top Duties & Responsibilities of a Security Guard

Roles of Police Officers

Police officers have the responsibility of enforcing laws and regulations, maintaining public order, and protecting citizens from harm both in public and private properties. They do this by:

  • Patrolling public spaces
  • Responding to emergencies
  • Investigating crimes
  • Making arrests
  • Assisting crime victims
  • Issuing citations
  • Regulating traffic
  • Controlling crowds
  • Strengthening community relations
  • Hosting public information sessions

Also Read: The Role of Security Guards in Emergency Response

#4. Training & Licensing

Police officers cannot work as security guards if they don’t have the license required for security. Security guards cannot work as law enforcers without a police officer certification.

Since security guards and police officers perform different duties and responsibilities, the amount of training and licenses required are also different. Some states require different occupational licenses for these jobs.

Although security guards receive intensive training as well, police officers are required to complete a lot more training programs and meet strict qualifications to become law enforcement officers.

Also Read: Proprietary Security vs Contract Security Companies: Which Suits Your Business Best?

Security Guard Training & Licensing

The training required for security guards will vary by jurisdiction, but it often includes:

  • Observation techniques
  • Report writing
  • Conflict resolutions
  • Patrol techniques
  • Customer services
  • Risk assessment
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership skills

Also Read: How Security Guards Handle Conflicts & De-escalate Violent Situations

In addition, security guards often complete voluntary training courses or those offered by their agencies aside from state-required certification programs to obtain a security license. Unarmed security officers need a Class D security license while armed guards need to have a Class G security license. Moreover, armed security guards should obtain additional licenses or certificates for carrying and using firearms.

Although it may not be required by the security agency they are working in, training should be continuous to keep themselves updated with the best private security practices and technology advancements. For instance, Scout Security provides continuous training to its personnel to make sure that they can handle any issue through the most effective and efficient methods.

Also Read: How Can Uniformed Security Guards Deter Crime in Your Business?

Police Officer Training & Licensing

Police officers get their training in police academies and are required to undergo ongoing training to stay up-to-date with laws and regulations. Their training includes:

  • Physical fitness
  • Self-defense
  • Criminal justice theory
  • Law enforcement tactics
  • Crisis response
  • Emergency response
  • Firearms use

#5. Work Hours

Police officers are regular government employees who work 40 hours a week and are employed full-time. For security guards, working part-time is more common where they take shifts to guard your property 24/7, especially during crucial hours such as early morning, evenings, nights, holidays, and weekends.

Also Read: 10 Benefits of Hiring a Security Guard to Protect Your Business

Security Guard & Police Office Relationship: A Necessary Collaboration

Security Guard & Police Office Relationship: A Necessary Collaboration

Although security guards and police officers have distinct duties and responsibilities, their roles complement each other in maintaining public safety.

In the context of private surveillance, their collaboration is crucial for businesses in terms of seamless communication regarding criminal activities. That is, security guards can quickly relay information to police officers to allow for rapid response and suspect apprehension to prevent potential damage to your business.

Moreover, security guards provide valuable assistance to law enforcers during investigations by identifying suspects, offering eyewitness accounts, and sharing CCTV footage. They also work alongside police officers at public events for crowd management, suspicious behavior monitoring, and emergency response.

Also Read: Why Private Security and Law Enforcement Collaboration is Crucial

Other Things to Know About Security Guards & Police Officers

Other Things to Know About Security Guards & Police Officers

Why Should You Hire Security Guards Instead of Relying Solely on Police Officers?

To make this easier, below is a list of some of the many reasons why businesses and property managers should hire private security instead of relying only on police officers to protect their properties against crimes:

  • The attention of private security guards is focused only on your business’s safety. Police officers deal with many issues that they will likely prioritize over business alarms.

  • Security guards can perform key-holding duties and be assigned to monitor security alarms. This allows them to stop potential security breaches proactively and reduce potential damage. They are your first line of defense against unlawful activities whilst police officers only respond after crimes have already occurred.

Also Read: How to Increase Business Security With a 24-Hour Guard

Can a Police Officer Work as a Security Guard?

Of course, police officers can work as security guards. In fact, many security guards are retired law enforcement officers and even veterans. These guards are highly valued for their experience and skills which make them invaluable assets for businesses in protecting their reputation by keeping their properties safe from destructive crimes.

However, take note that there may be specific licensing requirements for security guards that are different from that of police officers depending on your jurisdiction. 

Does Security Count as Law Enforcement Experience?

This depends on the nature of the security work including the duties and responsibilities involved as well as the organization recognizing it. For instance, law enforcement agencies may accept relevant security experience. Those in the private sector may also value security experience as equivalent to law enforcement experience.

Also Read:


What is the main difference between a police officer and a security guard?

The key difference is that police officers are public employees who work under government agencies and have legal authority to detain and arrest suspects. Security guards are private employees hired by businesses for their interests.

What are the factors we need to consider before hiring security guards?

The first thing to consider is the risks your business is exposed to. This makes sure that you will get guards who have the right experience and knowledge to meet your specific requirements. You can find a step-by-step guide on how to hire a security guard company here.

Why should you hire a security guard?

Private security guards patrol your property 24/7 and are always ready to respond to alarms and emergencies at any moment which mitigates potential damages to your business. They can also perform a variety of duties and offer great flexibility to meet your dynamic needs.

Do security guards deter crime?

The presence of uniformed security guards on your premises serves as a powerful deterrent against crimes like theft. They proactively prevent unlawful activities by discouraging potential criminals from targetting your property.

Hire Scout Security’s Certified Security Guards That Include Former Law Enforcement Officers

We employ high-caliber guards who are intensively trained on various security protocols and techniques to ensure that they are well-prepared to handle any issue that may arise. From risk assessment and access control to emergency and alarm response, they are capable of providing top-notch protection for your business, employees, and customers.

Contact us now and get customized security solutions whether you are in the hospitality, construction, retail trade, entertainment, or industrial manufacturing industry. Scout Security is one of the leading security providers in the Denver Metro and Colorado Springs areas.

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