They don’t make realistic, well-researched television shows about security officers. There are police dramas like Law & Order that do a great job of showing what goes into police work, but the understanding of security guards and security companies tends to be a little askew. Myth and reality differ depending on which jurisdiction you are referencing. Below is a mix of positive and negative myths about security guards and security companies in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC, and the truth about them.
Myth 1: Security Guards Aren’t That Bright
Some security officers are brilliant people working to gain experience towards a job in law enforcement, while others like the flexible schedules that allow them to work their way through college. Many officers already have advanced degrees. The best security companies provide more than a warm body in a uniform. They provide sharp, capable, ambitious professionals who care about doing a great job.
Myth 2: The Companies With The Cheapest Rates Are The Best Option
Obviously, some companies charge a little more than they’re worth, but there are others that charge a rate that is so low that they have to compromise quality service to meet that price. Price should be part of your decision but when it comes to security companies the highest is not always the best, and the lowest is not always the worst. Be sure to look at the total picture.
Myth 3: All Security Companies Run Background Checks Before Hiring Officers
Whether or not a company runs background checks before hiring an officer often depends on the policy of that company and the licensing process of the jurisdiction.
Security Companies in Maryland
The Maryland State Police Licensing Division manages security licenses in Maryland. Maryland runs background checks upon receiving the licensing application. However, it may take as long as two to three months to obtain the results. Many companies hire officers and start them working while the background check is being completed. In other words, someone could be working for three full months before you have any verified knowledge of their background. You can learn more about the Maryland security guard licensing process here
Security Companies in Virginia
Security licenses in Virginia are managed by the Department of Criminal Justice Services Private Security Services Program (DCJS). DCJS runs background checks upon receiving the licensing application. However, it may take several weeks before results are received. Similar to Maryland, many security companies in The Commonwealth hire officers without performing background investigation and start them working while the background check is being completed.
Security Companies in Washington DC
The background check portion of the licensing process is an example of a situation where DC does it better than their surrounding jurisdictions. DC Metropolitan Police Security Officer Management Branch (DC SOMB) manages the background check portion of the licensing process. Officers do not receive their license before the completion of the background check. The background check portion of the licensing process is completed in a days or weeks.
You may be wondering…”What about those who already have a license” All three jurisdictions run new background checks every time the security guard renews their license. However, that can be as long as three years. The best security firms run their own tests every year.
Myth 4: A Licensed Security Guard Cannot Have A Criminal Background
It is possible to receive a security license if you have a criminal record. In Maryland and Washington DC, applicants with misdemeanors or felonies can be approved depending on the nature of the crime and how long ago the crime was committed. Virginia will not allow felons to be licensed but will accept applicants with misdemeanor convictions if it is from the distant past. Some companies have policies against hiring people with a criminal background that are more strict than licensing agencies for their state; others do not.
Myth 5: Security Guards Are Fake Cops Who Couldn’t Qualify To Become Police
This is like saying that tow truck drivers aren’t as good as trained auto mechanics. The two jobs are very different. A police officer is there to enforce the law, to chase down suspects and arrest them when necessary. A security officer is there to ward off criminals with their presence, to keep an eye on things, to observe and report if they see anything suspicious. The police officer’s primary interest is enforcing the law. The security officer’s primary interest is to look out for the interests of the company that enlists their employer. To put it one way: a cop’s job is to catch the thief, a security officer’s job is to keep anything from being stolen in the first place. Where a police officer responds to crime, a security officer aims to prevent it, often through their presence alone.
It is important to remember that in some cases the myths above are correct. Some security guards are not very smart. Some security guards that act like imitation police officers. Sometimes the cheapest company provides excellent service. Some run their background checks before hiring officers, and some crimes are so heinous that it is impossible for that person to get a security license. The fact is that choosing a security company should never be based on myths or supposition. A security company should be selected by asking the right questions and taking the whole picture into consideration when making your decision.
Want to tell the difference between fact and myth when searching for a Maryland Security Company? Ask these 7 Questions to ask when hiring security companies in MD.