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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Gomez

The Thin Blue Line: Liabilities of Security Guards

The role of a security guard involves protecting property, people, and maintaining order.

Contracted by businesses across various sectors, these professionals form an essential line of defense against a range of threats. However, their role brings with it numerous liabilities that can lead to serious consequences if not appropriately managed. A key aspect of this management involves the critical understanding that guards should take direction primarily from their own management, not the clients of their contracts.

Liabilities of Security Guards

Physical Liability

Security guards are often exposed to physical risks as part of their duties, including the potential for violent encounters or injuries. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, security guards have a higher rate of injury and illness than the national average (1). Their responsibility to intervene in threatening situations can lead to potential harm and subsequent liability.

Legal Liability

Security guards also bear significant legal liability. They are bound by laws and regulations regarding the use of force, detention, and privacy (2). If a security guard steps over these legal boundaries, they could be held liable for their actions. A report by Chubb, a leading insurance company, detailed that lawsuits against security guards for excessive use of force, false arrest, and invasion of privacy are not uncommon (3).

Financial Liability

In cases where security guards are found to be negligent or guilty of misconduct, the financial repercussions can be substantial. These can include legal fees, fines, or payouts for damages (3). This financial liability often extends to the security company and can lead to increased insurance premiums.

The Importance of Management Hierarchy

Given these liabilities, it becomes critical that security guards operate within a clear command structure. Guards need to primarily take direction from their management and not the clients of their contracts for several reasons:

Avoiding Misinterpretation and Miscommunication

Security companies have specific procedures and policies that guards are trained to follow (4). Instructions from clients can sometimes contradict these established procedures, leading to confusion and mistakes that could escalate a situation or expose the guard to additional liability.

Preserving Legal and Contractual Boundaries

Clients may not fully understand the legal restrictions that security guards operate under. Taking direction from clients may inadvertently lead to legal breaches or contractual violations. As stated by the law firm of Fisher Phillips, guards are often sued for actions that exceed their authority.

Maintaining Professional Standards and Quality of Service

Security companies have the expertise to provide effective and safe security services. Taking directions from clients can compromise the guards' professional standards and disrupt the overall quality of service (4).

In conclusion, while clients may have specific needs and concerns, it is crucial that the directives given to security guards come primarily from their management. This maintains a clear chain of command, prevents legal and physical liabilities, and ensures the highest quality of service is maintained.



(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers.

(2) ASIS International. (2018). Security Management Standard: Physical Asset Protection.

(3) Chubb. (2016). Understanding Liability Exposures for Security Firms.

(4) National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2019). Safety and Health in the Security Industry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih

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