• Christian Strike

Security & Police

Examining the relationship between Security Guards and Police Officers in Ontario

Security Guards are often portrayed by Hollywood as being negatively viewed by Police. Just hear the name Paul Blart and you have an instant image in your mind of an overzealous Security Guard who couldn't pass Police testing trying to be the hero of the story, not the mention the plain clothes 'Detective Rogers' rolling his eyes...and while there can be some truth to the stereotype, the Police/Security relationship is a bit more complicated.

Do Police Officers 'dislike' Security Guards? Sometimes. Security Guards and Police Officers cross paths quite often. The Police community historically did such a good job of taking the personality out of the profession there are now full-time Police Officers assigned to focus on "Humanizing The Badge" through social media and community events. After all it is a profession made up of people, not robots, who each have their own individual opinions, likes and dislikes.

Every Police Service in Ontario has a different workplace culture. The relationship between Police and Security varies dramatically depending on the Security Agency, Police Service and individual people involved. In October of 2020 the President of a Southwestern Ontario Police Association (Union) was quoted in a national news outlet saying “I’m never in support of private Security Guards” while speaking on a Municipalities decision to hire Security Guards to patrol their downtown core, a program developed with nearly 6 months of planning and pitched to the local BIA & Municipality by Vigilant Security Services Inc. This Union President's statement (an elected Police Constable) could not ring more true to the culture of Police/Security relationships within their service. Of course there are exceptional Officers within any Police Service who are respectful & encouraging of the Guards they encounter, but in my overall experience having this Service respond to our calls means holding your breath on what kind of attitude you might encounter today. According to Scarfone Hawkins LLP, in 2018 the same Service faced a class action law suit for "discrimination, harassment & sexual harassment...pointing to a culture of misogyny that was tolerated and even promoted at the highest levels of the organization". I can say without reservation that the worst disrespect I've encountered in my 15+ year career as a Security Guard came from these Officers.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) would easily take the top of my list as having the best culture for Security relationships across the province. The OPP are tasked with the very challenging role of having to police excessively large areas with very limited resources. With that in mind, the OPP's Frontline Officers are exceedingly good at utilizing all the tools at their disposal, from community relationships with the store owners on Main St., to the Security Guard who patrols nearby private property. The on-duty interactions I've had with OPP Officers in various detachments have always left me feeling rewarded & encouraged.

Not every Security Agency is the same. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the differences in Security Guard employers and the effect it has on these relationships. While Police Officers in Ontario all attend the same College for 4 months of standardized training, the only standard which exists for private security is a 40 hour course often taught online by less than reputable organizations. Due to this, the frontline Police Officer will have a myriad of experiences in his/her dealings with Security Guards. I would imagine they also drive to their calls wondering what type of personality they're going to encounter today. While some Security Guards Agencies like Vigilant Security invest a lot of funding into the training of their Guards, many Security Agencies deliver services with just the bare minimum 40 hour course required by law, little supervision, poor accountability to their clients & no consistency.

Security Guards play a role in community safety. The volume of professionally trained Guards in Ontario can be of great assistance to the Police if properly utilized. If you envision the totality of everything criminal or safety related which happens in the community we could draw a pie. Police Officers have a piece of that pie, as do Special Constables, By-Law Enforcement Officers, Paramedics, Firefighters and yes; Security Guards. Recently a larger piece of that pie has been taken on by Security Agencies in Ontario, as multiple Municipalities have chosen private Security Guards to patrol public property. For example; the City of Brantford just made a decision to use a GTA Security Guard Agency to patrol areas of the City, rejecting an offer from the Brantford Police Association to utilize Special Constables instead. Regardless of this building competition between Police and Security, Police Officers will regularly provide professionally trained Guards with information on crimes occurring in the area or wanted persons to be on the look out for. They respond quickly to take custody of persons Guards have arrested and will often take the time to exchange pleasantries. Vigilant Security's marked Patrol Vehicles are always waived through RIDE programs, indicating a certain level of trust and courtesy for professionals who mirror law enforcement. The relationships on both sides for Public Law Enforcement and Private Security have the potential to be exceedingly beneficial, if both parties ensure that they remember the professional value of the other.

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