Weapons for security officers

by todaystrainingblog

In the 3 plus decades I’ve been in security there has been a debate about arming security officers. And being perfectly honest, there should be a debate. A healthy one not full of bomb throwing rhetoric like political ones are. I believe that there are other considerations to think about as well.

What are some of the reasons more security officers aren’t armed in modern society for the innumerable threats we encounter daily:

  • The position doesn’t warrant an armed officer, either because of the environment or low crime rate in the general vicinity. This is generally accepted, despite what may have happened in the area in the recent past, (It Can’t Happen Here).
  • The financial cost and liability issues, which can number into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And why? Because the recruitment and training costs are prohibitive for the client, who don’t want to pay up.
  • Warm Body Syndrome (WBS) within the contract security industry. This basically means whoever can fill the uniform and be on time to man the post.
  • Recruiting of qualified officers. This in and of itself can be a costly and time consuming endeavor for most companies. Finding the right person individual to place a firearm into their hands and know they will not freeze when the time comes.
  • Training of those qualified officers. This part of the process requires certified instructors, in most jurisdictions, and time on the shooting range in addition to the state mandated requirements of regular training.

But over and above the issues that companies don’t want armed officers there are several ways to arm your officers with a few less issues. There are weapons that a company can arm their officers with that are just as effective as a 9mm Glock (and please I hope the .38 detective special has been outlawed everywhere). So, what are these alternatives that are just as effective? They are not a throw together and forget about it solution. But they are effective and should be considered wherever appropriate.

  • Night sticks, ASP batons, or similar
  • Tasers
  • Pepper spray
  • Training

Each of these items has their own inherent risk of either a lawsuit or not being effective. And they all require significantly more training than a state mandated requirement. Let’s look at each a bit more closely:

  • They can break bones, cause significant injury, noticeable bruising as well as pressure cuts, what a boxer would get above the eye many times.
  • Tasers or other ‘stun guns’. These can be effective for normal people, however if they get someone who is high on drugs or has a hidden medical problem it may or may not be effective. It can also lead to many other legal and liability issues because of an unintentional death or injury.
  • Pepper spray. It has a tendency to disperse everywhere and could injure others in the area. And those injuries could be blindness if they already had vision issues. It can even cause death if they have a severe allergic reaction or breathing problems such as severe asthma.
  • This is your best overall bet instead of a firearm. Yes simple words and role play. By instructing your officers in the ways to verbally disarm and talk someone down from their tirade and keep them calm and others away can be just as effective as having a police officer pull their firearm on a suspect.

In the mid-80s we had several accounts that required firearms for the FSLIC. We had none, and never gave any, training in the use of the .38 detective special. Most of them didn’t even work and we stuck them in our uniform pockets not a holster. Some of them were even rusted. It was real professional looking or reminiscent of the Keystone Kops.

Role-playing with these tactics is also effective and should be mandatory. If the officers don’t use these skills after learning them, then they will atrophy and most will be forgotten within a few days. And a hand book and continual training should also be used in conjunction with a lecture, please no videos only lessons, and role play.

Is this cheap? Absolutely not. A one-time training session can cost a company easily a few hundred to several thousand, depending on how well and deep they get into the subject. If you can bring in an expert in any of these it could cost you even more, but would be well worth it.

But is it worth it to lessen liability, prevent employee injury, and prevent financial losses due to crime? Unequivocally, YES. A hundred years ago 90% of security ‘guards’ were armed. Now the number is less than 7%. But the world is getting more dangerous by the minute. Companies are demanding higher and better levels of protection from their providers. Therefore, the training that is involved in instructing your officer in various non-lethal ways to subdue someone should be considered, because you never know if the person will cause these issues or not.

That should be reason enough to want to arm your officers. But you have to factor location of the business, crime rate in the area, public perception, training, and liability before the decision can be made. All of these, especially public perception should be uppermost in your mind as you contemplate this question.

Lastly another simple question is this: What do your officers need to enable them to disarm a hooligan or criminal in your business and prevent liability, injury, or loss of resources?


Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.

                                                 I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear