Security Officers and Policing: Powers, Culture, and Control in the Governance of Private Space

By Terry V. Cochran, CPP

***** Security Officers and Policing: Powers, Culture, and Control in the Governance of Private Space. By Mark Button; published by Ashgate Publishing, (Web); 205 pages; $99.95.

Security Officers & Policing examines the differences between the powers enjoyed by police officers and those available to private security guards under British law and how well guards themselves understand those differences. There are few studies or books on the topic, and this one may be a good start.

Author Mark Button, who is head of  the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at Portsmouth University (in the U.K.), bases the book on surveys of security staff at two sites. One is a public venue, a coastal resort referred to in the book as “Pleasure Southquay,” and the other is a private venue, specifically a defense industry facility. The questions posed and the officers’ responses are the most helpful part of the book, illustrating both the extent of private security officers’ powers of policing and the need for adequate training.

Button examines the roles played by guards in different settings, such as a “basic security officer,” who holds authority to ask, arrest, and use reasonable force to prevent a crime, and a “completely empowered” officer, who holds authority to enforce regulations on private property and conduct personal searches, whether a subject is entering or leaving the site.

The research determined that most guards understood the limits of their power. Some were unaware of limits on their authority to conduct searches, however, while many were equally unaware of their authority to use reasonable force to prevent a crime.

The subject matter was thoroughly researched but could have been written in a more reader-friendly format. The book reads more like an academic research paper than a professional guide or even a textbook. There is more statistical information than is needed for the intended audience. However, the figures that illustrate the author’s findings are useful, as are the case notes.

On balance, the book highlights gaps in security officer training in regard to policing powers in the United Kingdom. It would be especially helpful for managers supervising a guard force in Great Britain, or any country governed by similar laws.

Terry V. Cochran, CPP, is an independent security consultant providing full-spectrum security analysis plus management, training, and other services to government and industry. She is based in the Atlanta area.




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