Home Career Police and Private Security: The Ongoing Evolution of Responsibilities

Police and Private Security: The Ongoing Evolution of Responsibilities


Before the creation of the established police entity in the United States, private security carried most of the duties and responsibilities performing investigations, hunting fugitives, protecting the President, and acting as night watchmen to prevent crime.

Once city police became established as a staple of modern society (NYPD being the first to be created and accepted) and creation of Federal agencies to take over the duties of protecting Presidents (Secret Service), tracking wanted criminals (U.S. Marshals), and conducting investigations (F.B.I.), private security’s roles have shifted to mainly protecting private property.

While this is an over simplification of what took more than a hundred years to accomplish, the evolution is not over. Once again, we are seeing duties and responsibilities shift due to changes in the economy, budgets, and the results of disasters, both man-made and natural.

Even prior to the attacks of September 11th, law enforcement realized that in certain instances, they are not able to perform all the functions wanted and needed by our society. Police responsibilities and duties have grown through the decades of being not much more than a night watchman using call-boxes and whistles to combat gangs; becoming social workers; teaching drug prevention; staffing schools as resource officers; acting as computer-crime investigators; training as special response units; and especially in the last decade, becoming counter-terrorism specialists–all while budgets and funding are being drastically cut.

In short, law enforcement is being asked to do more with less. At the same time the number of police personnel has remained relatively stagnant (with a short boost by Community Policing Grants in the ‘80s and ‘90s) at under one million personnel in the United States.

In contrast, the private security sector has grown to more than 1.2 million personnel in the U.S. and now protects over 50% of the nation’s critical infrastructure. The private security sector has seen an increase in the number of criminals in private prisons rise by 47% in the last decade. And the future prediction of the private sector is that of growth, especially in the area of cybersecurity.

After incidents like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and other mass casualty and highly publicized incidents, law enforcement has learned that they cannot be everything to everyone at the time of an incident.

Even every-day calls for service are becoming harder to handle for many police agencies. Dallas P.D. recently established a policy that they would no longer respond to retail theft calls where the amount is under $50.

As roles continue to evolve there has been some outstanding joint efforts being conducted around the country that are proving to be a “win-win” for police and private interests. There is better funding available through the private sector, thus greater resources that the public sector just does not have.

Efforts to reduce crime in downtown areas are now being turned over to private sector personnel in coordination with local police and are believed to be greatly responsible for the reduction of crime in so called Business Improvement Districts.

Other programs like the FBI’s InfraGard Program, which shares information and assists in private sector training, is a good example. Associations such as the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators (IAFCI) partners the resources of private security sector banks, credit card companies, etc. with all levels of law enforcement agencies who deal with financial crimes. And other associations like (ISC)2 is a cyber-security group that establishes training and certifications for both groups–public and private.

Over the years we have seen security perform police functions and police perform security functions as well as a combination of both entities. What lies on the horizon is anyone’s guess; however, it is clear that a closer partnership between public police and private security is a trend that will only become more valuable as both groups try to safeguard people and assets and reduce crime.



  1. Great article, thanks for posting it. Afrter reading this article and seeing the dramatic increase in Private Security it is time to implement National standards for security personnel and possibly create National academies for Security personnel spread around the country. Prospective Security candidates would attend one of many Security Academies at the Security Companies expense.
    We would have a much more professional and qualified Security personnel guarding our critical infrastructure.

    1. You don’t need a national structure for Security and Congress doesn’t have the authority to create such a law.

      Each state is responsible for issuing standards for security personnel and I can tell you from experience (former tactical officer USCG and current security supervisor), the training in California is outdated and in need of revamping. It was written some time ago by a security professional that didn’t have any LE experience, and the training manuals show it. The training also has not succeded in making Officers any more professional or proficient. A new law was passed that in house security had to attend 40 hours of training because the public needed confidence in us when they saw our uniform. All of our staff underwent the required 40 hours plus 8 hours of refresher training each year and the people that were professional before are still professional, the officers that we had problems with, are still giving us problems.

  2. I dont know about the other states, but I work as a professional licensed Security Officer in the state of Texas. I like the job and it has many good benefits from it.
    I am an ex Marine Infantryman. I also served 6 years in as a recon, and a Scout Sniper.
    I also served 4 years in the navy. and served 10 years and retired from the U.S. Army as a First Sergeant. Being Infantry before I retired I was placed on the promotion list for Command Sergeant Major. I turned down the promotion as the military is changing too much. Today it seems like nobody knows what they are doing, the soldiers are lost and dont know where or who to turn to. Nobody knows whats happening or where it’s heading to. I can honestly and proudly say that in Texas where I reside and work now, security officers are trained and retrained annually, and all officers are tested. We work hands on with the local Police Depts and they support us.
    Also much refresher training is given every year on security patrolling, and hands on tasks, weapons qualification ranges, and CPR and First Aid are tested and updated.
    This is how the security field needs to be trained and conducted, to insure we have only the best and most highly qualified people in the security fields working.


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