Security Officers: In-House or Proprietary

by todaystrainingblog

This is an argument that has been raging for decades. Should you hire your own officers or hire a contract service. There are arguments to both of these. And since I’ve been on both sides of the issue, I feel that I should tell you what I believe is the right choice.
I firmly believe that hiring your own proprietary force is best for any company. And I understand that the contract companies will argue vehemently against this. That is mainly because it would put them out of business, and I wish no one to go out of business.

Before the 1870’s security was provided by proprietary forces. Railroads, banks and other financial concerns, as well as some manufacturing businesses hired their own ‘watchmen’. And for the most part they were served well by them Then Allan Pinkerton began his service (now Securitas). After that innumerable services popped up including the Burns Detective Agency (also now a part of Securitas). The original services were very often rude, crude, & lewd. They slept on duty and carried firearms. They were also strike breakers carrying fence posts and other such items to break strikes.
Now there are estimated 20,000 security contract providers in the United States. Most of them are legal, but some of them operate under the radar without licensing and insurance. And some of the smaller ones literally operate nary a penny from bankruptcy. And many offer literally no training.

With a contract service you get officers at a moment’s notice – usually. And you also get a management team that is soooo happy to sell you services they fall over themselves to under-cut the competition.
2 examples of what’s bad about a contract service. #1 is that you can have an officer removed at your whim for any reason, legal or not;
Working for a large national ‘guard’ company in the 90’s, I had to remove an officer from a post because they’re a very light skinned black kid with naturally red hair, and the client didn’t want that ‘image’ at their location! I also had to remove an officer from a post at our largest client, a large telecommunications firm because she was too perky!
Other reasons besides the legal ramifications are;
• Lower costs in terms of overtime, licensing, training, vacations, & etc.
• Many times the billing rate will be lower than janitorial services or regular employees
• Not having to deal with the human equation
• Don’t have to worry about scheduling
• If an officer makes a mistake the contractor takes responsibility – mostly
• And a myriad of other details that normally clog HR’s and client contacts day

With a proprietary force you have so much better control over your force than you do with a contract service. Here are a few of those;
• Diversity – you can hire who you want, white, Asian, black, Hispanic, or Klingon
• You can fire, lay-off, or have disciplined according to your rules – less turnover
• Your force will, more than likely, be more loyal to you and the company
• The training will be tailored to YOUR company/location, which is always better
• Better supervision and management, problems are taken care of quicker
• Better communication between the main office and security force
• Issues and security can be raised within seconds not hours
• And the employees may be more willing to follow rules as well

There are pros and cons to both sides of this argument. I’ve seen contracted officers so loyal to the client that I had to call in other officers to handle strikes or other emergencies because my officers were too close to the employees.
I’ve also seen proprietary officers know the routine so well that they began stealing from the company. And they were able to take advantage of any negative situation that came along. And sometimes they also became too chummy with the employees
So what should you do? That is a question that only you, and maybe a consultant, can decide. Just don’t contract based on price, which is a very lousy way to depend on anything so crucial.

Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues. With numerous interviews, a twice weekly blog, articles, and 2 books he has proven himself in the security field for more than 31 years, and 23 studying workplace violence issues.
He utilizes his years of field knowledge to give real life examples of incidents pulled from both his own experiences and the news headlines. Contact him at 480-251-5197 or through his Facebook page at Here you will see and read about other items related to security as well as WPV.