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Making an Arrest

This section describes how to complete a legal arrest, and it provides some examples. When a security officer arrests someone, they take away that person's fundamental right to freedom. Consequently, there are several procedures the officer must follow before they can make a legal arrest so that the arrested person's rights remain protected.


According to our legal system, a person is innocent until proven guilty. It is up to the court to decide if a person is guilty - not the police, not the district attorney, and not a private person. When a person is arrested, they are called a suspect. They are then considered a suspect until the court finds them guilty or innocent. Therefore, do not refer to an arrested person as the "criminal," "offender," "robber," "murderer," "burglar," or by any other term which implies guilt. You can say "he," "she," "they," "this person," or "the suspect" because none of these terms imply guilt.

When You Make an Arrest


If you should happen to be in a situation where an arrest is called for, you should tell the person that they are under arrest and what the charges are, and your authority to make the arrest. For example, "You are under arrest for burglary under the authority of section 837 of the California state penal code."


Once you say, for example, "You are under arrest for burglary," the suspect may or may not cooperate. If the suspect resists and tries to escape, you must then decide whether or not to use reasonable force. As a citizen's arrest, you may ask as many persons as you think necessary to help you in making the arrest.

Use of Force in an Arrest


If a suspect resists arrest, you are allowed to use reasonable force to subdue them. Reasonable force is that degree of force that is not excessive and is appropriate in protecting oneself or one's property. If the suspect submits willingly, no force is necessary. If a suspect should resist arrest, remember that the only force allowed is that which is reasonable and necessary to overcome the resistance.

Example of an Arrest


Guilt by association is not a lawful way to make arrests. Let's look at an example:


It is 11:00 p.m. and a guard is making their rounds of the plant when they find Gate No. 5 open. There are pry marks on the chain that normally holds the gate shut. About 50 yards from the gate is an old pickup truck parked by the side of the road. The hood is up, and two men are bent over looking at the motor. The guard walks over and says, "All right, you guys. What are you doing here?" One of the men responds by saying, "What's it to you pal?" The guard answers angrily, "Look, you better tell me what you're doing here or you're in trouble!" Neither man replies. One of them gets into the driver's seat and turns over the engine. The guard then asks, "Didn't you hear what I said?" The other man says, "Leave us alone." The guard moves to the front of the truck and grabs the man's arm, stating, "You guys aren't going anywhere until you answer a few questions."




Finding the gate open with pry marks on the chain does not necessarily mean that a crime has been committed. There are a number of possible explanations short of forced entry. Next, there is nothing to tie the two men to forcing the gate open except that their truck was parked nearby. The guard cannot demand that the men answer their questions. The guard's attitude, tone of voice, uniform, and badge could easily have made the men believe that they were being arrested. If the guard refused to let them leave and if it turned out they had nothing to do with forcing the gate, the men could sue the guard for false arrest and for battery, because the guard grabbed the man's arm.

Proper Course of Action


First, the guard should have examined the condition of the gate carefully,

recorded the license number of the truck, and obtained a description of

the two men. Next, the guard should have secured the gate and reported

its condition to their supervisor, being careful to watch for other suspicious

activity. The guard may or may not decide to talk with the two men. The

guard might enter into a friendlier conversation with them by asking if they

had seen anyone near the gate. If they are not cooperative, there is nothing

the guard can do except observe closely. The guard should never touch another

person except when reasonable force is necessary when placing them under

citizen's arrest.


NOTE: The above direction is a suggestion and is at the discretion of the employer. Some employers may want their security personnel to be more proactive as long as they stay within the parameters of what is lawful regarding private person's (citizen's) arrest.


A Better Approach


Remember the part about friendly conversation? Although you cannot demand answers from a person, you can always engage them in casual conversation to try and collect more information. Here is a better approach:


"Hi! Got car troubles?" One of the men replies, "Yeah! This darn thing shorts out every once in a while." The guard then asks, "Say, have you seen anybody around the gate?" The men reply, "No, we haven't seen anyone except you." The guard says, "How long have you been here?" "Oh, maybe five minutes." "Well, thanks for your help. If you need to call for road service, I can make the call for you." "Thanks anyway, but we'll get it going." The guard then walks away.




The security guard may not have gotten much information, but at least they had a chance to observe each man closely and check their activities without running the risk of bad public relations or a false-arrest suit. It is important for security professionals to understand that "Guilt by association," or by just being there, is not a lawful reason to make arrests or to assume involvement. Arrests must be based on evidence. Another simple example of this point is when two people enter a store and one puts a watch in their pocket without paying for it and tries to leave the store. Regardless if the other person knew about it or not, depending on the situation, only the person who is suspected of committing the crime can be arrested.

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