Answers to “You Decide” Boxes

Suggested answers to “You Decide” boxes in the text provide a well-researched rationale behind the recommended response to key issues facing the law enforcement profession.

The following information was obtained from the 2015 book Careers in Criminal Justice by Coy H. Johnston.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 initiated drastic changes in the United States, including enhanced security along our borders and within our cities, counties, and states. The private security business boomed and was at last recognized as an important appendage to law enforcement.

Security officers have been employed for a very long time at hospitals, shopping malls, apartment complexes, and individual businesses after hours. Private security officers transport money and guard buildings during remodeling or new construction. They are often stationed at the entrances to big events or important government buildings. Sometimes the presence of security is essential for insurance purposes, and sometimes businesses hire security officers just because the benefits outweigh the costs.

Sometimes businesses choose to hire off-duty police officers as security personnel, even though the cost is greater. They may feel that the advantage of having a sworn peace officer on the premises offsets the additional cost. The advantages depend on the purpose of the security. When a business is concerned mainly with deterring crime, a security officer’s visibility will likely do the job just fine. If a business or government agency foresees a likelihood of arrests and physical confrontations, using a trained, certified, armed peace officer might be the most prudent choice.

There has traditionally been some tension between private security and the public police. Although there have been substantial improvements, many police officers have long looked at security officers as inferior, and thus have not displayed adequate respect. Security officers who might already feel inferior to sworn law enforcement personnel don’t appreciate being made to feel that way by the police.

It is no secret that being hired as a police officer is difficult, the training is intensive, and the authority and empowerment are inimitable and comprehensive. Hiring at a private security firm sometimes entails mediocre standards (with no polygraph testing), followed by minimal training, and resulting in slightly more than minimum wages in exchange for undesirable hours. This is not to say that security officers are any less qualified than police officers, but likely those who crave and could qualify for law enforcement careers would choose to do so over working in private security. Also, those who desire police work but don’t feel that they can qualify, or those who leave or retire from police work, can find great satisfaction in security work. One can also find positions in the security arena that are practical careers with good pay, reasonable benefits, and enough challenge and excitement to make the job desirable.

There has been an increase in training for schools, hospitals, and security firms in the area of incident command. Some police agencies have invited security officers to join them in certain training activities. Many police personnel, who have historically had the “us vs. them” attitude, have reconsidered the way they view civilians, including security officers, and respect them as important parts of a larger team. Police officers, as well as the community as a whole, realize the benefits of having full-time, visible security at places such as water treatment plants, power plants, dams, financial centers, oil refineries, and railroad lines.