Why California Security Guards Should Avoid Making Arrests: A Guide


In the state of California, it’s essential for security guards to understand their role and responsibilities thoroughly. One crucial aspect is knowing why making arrests should be avoided in most cases. This article will explore the reasons why California security guards should steer clear of making arrests and instead focus on non-arrest approaches to maintain safety effectively.

1. Legal Boundaries for California Security Guards:

Security guards in California must be aware of the legal limitations surrounding their authority. While security guards may wear uniforms that make them look like police officers, they are not. Unlike law enforcement officers, security guards have no special authority under the law to make arrests.  Neither do they have a legal responsibility to do so. The state mandated “Powers to Arrest” course stresses this point. A security guard’s primary responsibility when an incident occurs is to “observe and report.” Understanding these boundaries is vital to avoid potential legal consequences, including civil liabilities and criminal charges.

2. Personal Safety Considerations:

Engaging in arrest situations poses inherent risks to the safety of security guards and the individuals involved. While security guards may possess physical skills, they generally lack the extensive training provided to law enforcement officers. This lack of security training increases the chances of physical altercations and potential escalation of violence.

While violent altercations often have legal consequences, which I’ll discuss below, they can also result in life changing injuries or death.  Unlike police officers, security guards often have limited or no access to benefits such as insurance coverage for medical, disability, or loss of life. A guard in that situation risks everything the moment an arrest is attempted.  Prioritizing personal safety is paramount, making it crucial for security guards to explore alternative methods of conflict resolution.

3. Minimizing Liability and Lawsuits:

Security guards and the organizations they represent can face significant liability and lawsuits when they go beyond their mandate by making arrests. Any misuse of force during an arrest can result in allegations of assault, false imprisonment, or civil rights violations. These legal battles can have severe financial and reputational consequences.  

In addition to being personally sued, a security guard can face criminal charges and imprisonment if the guard’s actions are called into question. While organizations employing security guards maintain liability insurance for their own legal defense, that insurance may NOT protect the individual security guard.

By avoiding arrests, security guards can minimize the risk of legal complications and focus on their primary duties of prevention before an incident occurs and being great witnesses during and after an incident.

4. Collaboration with Law Enforcement:

Security guards play a vital role as liaisons between the public and law enforcement agencies. Rather than taking matters into their own hands, security guards should prioritize effective communication with local law enforcement authorities. This collaboration allows security guards to report incidents, provide descriptions, and gather evidence to aid in the legal process. By working together, security guards contribute to a safer environment while respecting the boundaries of their role.

5. Emphasizing Non-Arrest Approaches:

To effectively handle conflicts and maintain a secure environment, security guards should be trained in non-arrest approaches. These techniques include conflict resolution, de-escalation tactics, and effective communication strategies. By employing these non-confrontational methods, security guards can often resolve potential issues without resorting to physical force. Such approaches also help foster positive community relationships, as security guards are seen as approachable and helpful figures.


California security guards must recognize and respect the legal limitations surrounding their authority. Avoiding arrests whenever possible is crucial to prevent legal complications, ensure personal safety, and minimize liability. By avoiding the temptation to make arrests and prioritize non-arrest approaches, security guards can effectively contribute to safety and security without putting themselves and their employers at unnecessary and often unactable levels of risk. Increase your professional knowledge and skills with security guard training courses from PDS Classes.