Pros and Cons of Hiring Police Officers

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Pros and cons of hiring police officers
to engage in private security work

Hiring police officers to perform private security work has positive aspects and potential pitfalls. Business owners vary in their opinion on hiring police officers. Liability and cost are reasons some prefer to hire private security guards or take other security measures. Other business owners prefer the training, professionalism, deterrence, and authority that come with hiring a police officer. Due to lawsuits involving off-duty police officers, the Courts have had to develop tests to determine when a moonlighting police officer is working under the authority of the private company or in the role of a peace officer. Issues have arisen about the difference in police mentality and retail service. Some argue that police officers are not trained in the motto that the ‘customer is always right'. Others believe additional training can bridge the gap. Hiring off-duty police officers is big business and a growing field that benefits the community and the officer.

Pros and cons of hiring police officers
to engage in private security work
The employment of off-duty officers in private security is a big business. An estimated 150,000 law enforcement officers engage in private security work on off-duty hours, and their combined income reaches $1.8 billion annually. The combined revenue of secondary police officer employment exceeds that of the combined top four security companies in 1988 (Trimble 1993). There are many positive aspects of the program that benefit the community and the officer. But to some the positives aspects do not outweigh the negative consequences of hiring police officers. In this paper, I will discuss the positive and negative aspects of hiring police officers for private security details, as well as, my personal experience, case law, and the polices of different police departments.


Why would a company want to pay for a police officer to work a security detail at their store or facility? Police officers generally cost more to hire than a traditional security guard. What are the advantages that justify the cost? First, let's define what is an off-duty police officer? Police are traditionally thought to be on-duty 24 hours a day. When officers are not actually working at the department, their law enforcement authority is in a type of reserve status. It is not necessary for an officer to be working the streets to invoke his police powers. Business and officers have taken advantage of this reserved status by hiring police for personal protection for their property and the latter to supplement their income. I have known business to hire officers to control crowds at a bar or large events, provide plain clothes surveillance or uniform presence in a shopping mall, escort a manager around to his different stores to make cash pickups, and provide a presence and deterrence against theft and robbery.

For example, Hispanic grocery stores, particularly those that do checking cashing, carry lots of cash. Nearly all Hispanics at the store I worked off-duty at paid for purchases in cash. Before the owner hired police officers, a gang of armed men robbed his store and several other Hispanic stores with in a months time. They made off with an average about $20,000 from each robbery. The night of the robbery, during the course of the initial investigation, the owner inquired about hiring a police officer at night to provide security. The average rate at that time was $20 per hour. He wanted an officer from 6:00pm until he locked the store around 10:30pm. This security detail would be one officer in uniform seven days a week. The annual cost of the security detail would be $33,600. If having a police officer on site prevents two robberies a year, at $20,000 apiece, then the detail pays for itself. But how can you determine the effectiveness of the program? Well, at one point after the...
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