Should Schools Arm Security Guards?
A lot of media attention and discussion recently has surrounded the topic of whether or not schools and other educational campuses should hire security guards, and whether those guards should carry firearms. Because this is an important decision with potentially serious consequences, you should first consider the pros and cons of having armed guards on your premises. That way, you can make a reasoned analysis of whether or not the benefits outweigh the liabilities for your school or campus.
Here are some of the factors you should consider when deciding whether or not to arm your security guards.
First and foremost, you need to research your state laws regarding armed security personnel on educational campuses. Some states allow for security guards to be armed on a school property, and other states’ laws prohibit civilians from being armed on a school campus. No matter what your security objectives are, you are exposing your school to risk if you are on the wrong side of the law when it comes to protection.
Security Guard Training
Training requirements and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Some states require security guards to carry a certain class of license, and they also require them to go through annual training to maintain the license and certificate to carry a fire arm. These regulations are in place to protect schools, students, staff and the security officers themselves. By ensuring that your guards are trained, you can help to minimize risk – not only during any type of incident, but every day that people are present on the property.
Should Your Security Guards be Law Enforcement Officers?
When you hire current or retired law enforcement officers as security guards, you can be more confident that they have received extensive training in the use of weapons during the course of their employment. Even so, you need to confirm that they take whatever tests or certifications they need to remain qualified on an annual basis to carry a firearm.
You should also take into account whether or not you already have any off-duty police officers on your school grounds or campus. While some local police departments make officers available to schools in their jurisdiction, other departments are understaffed and cannot spare any additional officers for this purpose. In those cases, arming a security guard may be one of your only options for armed protection on site. Traditionally, armed security guards cost less per hour than a law enforcement officer, so it may be a more cost-effective way of protecting your school or educational campus.
Insurance and Risk
One of the most important factors to address is the risk and liability that comes with arming your security officers. The presence of a gun is no guarantee that you will be able to de-escalate a situation, or deter violent individuals from committing crimes. Plus, educational facilities and other crowded public areas often are not practical for an officer to discharge a gun, because he or she will be increasing the risk of casualties. Law enforcement officers train diligently to evaluate the pros and cons of discharging a firearm in any scenario, an extremely difficult situation even with proper training.
You will also want to give consideration to the insurance policies required for security staff. When a firearm is discharged, the potential resulting insurance claims are huge and often exceed the normal insurance limits. Because of this, it is important to maintain a much higher limit of liability when you choose to arm your guards. You must be prepared for the possibility that if someone is wrongfully shot, they may sue both the officer and your school, who employs the officer. The potential for a costly settlement should not be overlooked in making your decisions.
Making Your Decision
Each school or educational campus is different. Your school administrators should weigh the benefits vs. the risks and liabilities of arming security officers before you make a decision.
Some schools may decide to go with a combination of a few off-duty police officers and armed security guards, while other schools may decide to go with all off-duty police officers or all armed security guards.
This is a decision that should be discussed with owners and/or administrators of private and public schools (all types of educational campuses) as well as legal representatives for each.
One final thought on this topic is the psychological impact that arming security guards could potentially have on the administrators, teachers, students, and the parents. Knowing that there are armed security officers on campus may make them feel more safe and comfortable, helping them to concentrate on their primary mission: education.
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Robin Baker oversees the design and development of SilverShield, a cloud-based Visitor & Emergency Management System, and was also instrumental in ARMS, an anti-piracy security application for the safety of ships and crews at sea. In addition, Robin was also the founder of Learning Today, now known as iReady. Robin works with Schools, as well as Security and Software Development Teams internationally to improve the safety and security of schools today. American Heritage School of Plantation and Boca/Delray has adopted SilverShield and can speak about its effectiveness on their campus as well.
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