Ok first in the interest of full disclosure let me be clear here. I have worked in the private security field for about 6 years. I have worked for several different security companies and worked in many different roles. I have done roles that essentially required me to have a heartbeat and be able to operate a cell phone in case of emergency, and I have worked in situations that an unarmed and under trained “college student with a badge” had no business being. I do not believe in the thoughts of Gecko45 or any other idiot who feels that we are here to save the world.
There are vastly different types of jobs that get classified as security and while a person may be good in one they could be down right dangerous or get somebody hurt if put into a different role.
The Concierge: This is the guy or girl who is parked at a front desk of an apartment building, corporate office or whatever but instead of wearing a traditional security uniform many times they wear a suit and tie or when they do wear a security uniform the focus is still on looking clean and professional. They most likely are not wearing a duty belt or if they are its essentially empty. I have done this kind of work I hate it because its pretty slow speed and if I wanted to do that kind of work, I would go find myself at a hotel front desk and make far better money.
Loss Prevention: One area of security where although I have done it I have probably the least amount of experience in it. These are guys who are dressed in plain clothes and carry a pair of cuffs. They work in your grocery stores, malls and whatever. These guys in my experience are loved by store management because they do drastically reduce loss and are normally pretty well trained on how to make their busts stand up in court. The one thing that I have seen far too many times is that these are the guys who are most likely to be total assholes when they come in contact with somebody. When I did this kind of work in Oregon the rules pretty clearly stated that as soon as you cuffed somebody you became responsible for them and you were to call the cops ASAP. I often saw LP agents tell suspects that they were not going to call the cops until they felt like it or until they decided if it was worth it. I also saw some pretty bad handcuffing skills but most of these were in methods of approach where they were risking the safety of the officer rather than the suspect. These guys also almost always work in teams of 2-3 and this sometimes causes individuals to feed off each other. While I never worked for a company who did exclusively loss prevention I did work as uniformed security in stores that had plain clothes LP and I did some plain clothes LP while working for a traditional contract firm.
The Professional Cop Caller: This is pretty much what it sounds like this is your stereotypical guy who works graveyard shift at a construction site, parking lot shopping mall or whatever and basically just travels around looking for anything out of the ordinary. While this person may deal with an occasional meth head wanting to run off with a truckload full of copper wire more likely his incidents involved a water pipe that busts, or a fire hazard. This job is the simplest of the security jobs and where most officers (myself included) started. Its also very common for this to be someones second or third job for some extra cash.
The customer service agent: This is what is becoming more and more common. Here is a security guard who although they are dressed to stop a crime they spend 90% of their time helping somebody find something or giving them directions. Most of security in grocery stores, shopping malls and big box retail would fall into this category. These guys are actually pretty effective at making people who don’t know any better feel more safe and are pretty good at providing the calming allusion of safety. I would classify most of these roles as mostly harmless.
The corporate guard: Pretty simple this is the guy at work who sits in a camera room or at an entrance checks to make sure that everybody behaves and wears their ID cards, may check in vehicles as they pull in and may or may not be responsible for escorting out employees who are being terminated for whatever reason. I would also say that there job may end up looking a lot like the concierge but they are probably a little more focused on security than customer service.
The high speed- low drag guy: Of the ones mentioned this is likely the only guy who is going to be working with any sort of “tools” he is going to at least have handcuffs and a baton he may or may not be armed and his primary focus is security. He does very little customer service and he generally only deals with a situation when something is wrong. This can take the face of alarm response for a corporate account, it could be an in-house security team for a high profile piece of infrastructure such as power plants/ dam/ rail yard. This is what I am currently doing (or at least the closest thing to what I am doing). These guys many times come from a background in law enforcement/ military or have just been doing this junk for an extended period of time. This is probably the job that requires the most careful screening of employees if there is one role that would encourage somebody to get uppity and become a professional asshole this would be it. The tone of management can create or destroy the effectiveness of this role. Some managers will be very good at finding the balance others wont.
This is not a fully extensive list and I purposely did not include things like bouncers and celebrity escort because those are fields I have no personal experience in and don’t feel qualified to speak on.
In general I feel that private security is a real job and and can extremely useful however it is a classic role where bad apples not only make everybody look bad but they spread like cancer. If you have a bad apple he will influence the people he works with and god forbid he is allowed to train somebody we could have a real big issue. I also feel that from my experience in 2 different states the idea of state licensing while it may be a good idea for the most part is done wrong. In both Oregon and Washington the unarmed course takes about 8hrs and is mostly focused on how not to get sued and how to be a good witness. While some companies are great about providing on going and continuing training in everything from conflict de-escalation to defensive tactics courses others just plain suck at it.