Church Safety

Arming Your Staff/Security Guards

Whether to arm a security detail at your organization takes a measured and thoughtful approach.

Before making the decision whether to establish an armed security detail, the first step is to form a security team or committee. The security committee’s first task is to develop a comprehensive Organization Safety and Security Plan. Following the SafeChurch Church Violence Plan Checklist is a good place to start.

While realizing an armed security force will not prevent a violent incident from occurring at your facility, you will want to discuss the following as you prepare to form an armed security detail:

Topics to Discuss When Considering Armed Security

  • What risk is your organization facing that justifies this level of security?
  • What other steps have you taken to prevent or reduce a violent incident from occurring at your facility?
  • Do you have an unarmed security team already in place?
  • Do you have a relationship with your local law enforcement agency?
  • Does your state have a law prohibiting weapons, including concealed weapons, from being brought into your organization?

What Risks Are You Creating By Having Armed Security?

  • Innocent bystander is killed by your security force
  • Deadly force is taken when it isn’t called for
  • Lawsuit against the you and the security personnel

Arming Your Security Force

After careful consideration and planning, and in the event you consider forming an armed security detail as a component to your comprehensive Organization Safety and Security Plan, your security committee should consult and develop a coordinated response with local police, sheriff, and other state law enforcement personnel. If your organization decides to form an armed security force, here are some topics to consider:

  • Hire a security consultant to help assess your organization’s security risks. Be sure to hire a reputable professional who maintains proper credentials. You may be able to obtain recommendations from your local police agency.
  • Discuss all aspects of your plan with your local law enforcement agency.
  • Incorporate the use of the armed security detail into your Organization Safety and Security Plan. Remember, an armed security response is only one part of a safety and security plan.
  • Have a process and procedure for third party investigation of an officer involved shooting. Keep in mind this process can be quite expensive. Estimates are $200,000 – $700,000 for an investigation of a shooting by qualified outside investigators.
  • Determine how to form the armed security unit using one or a combination of:
    • Off-Duty Law Enforcement – These officers typically have superior training and experience dealing with disruptive, suspicious, or potentially violent individuals. Organizations that feel the need to employ security guards should strongly consider the use of off-duty law enforcement officers.
    • Hired Security Guard Force – Another option is to hire a professional security guard service. Before doing so, check references and make sure you are clear on the guards’ backgrounds, training, and the role they will play. Hire security personnel from the upper level of the candidate pool, such as former/retired law enforcement personnel. They have undergone extensive training and screening. In addition, strongly consider a written agreement with the security agency, which includes hold harmless language in favor of your organization, and have your organization listed as an additional insured on the service’s liability insurance policies.
    • Own Security Guard Force – The least preferable option is for the organization to utilize its own security guard force, particularly if they are interested in having armed security. In this scenario, the organization is responsible for running background checks, training and supervising these individuals. Generally, the organization will be held liable for the acts of its security guards with no recourse against any other entity, and the organization must make sure that it complies with state licensing and certification requirements. Organizations are strongly encouraged to check with their legal advisor before undertaking to implement their own security guard force.
  • Notify your insurance company of your decision. Your insurance carrier will have underwriting requirements and will adjust the premium in accordance with the risk involved.
  • Post notices that you are using armed security officers.
  • Create and publicize that weapons are not allowed to be carried on your grounds by anyone other than your security officers. Your security personnel should know the location of every weapon on campus and who has access to it.
  • Know that allowing volunteers or employees to carry weapons, whether or not part of your armed detail, may cause liability to be attached to your organization for negligence and civil damages. Additionally, loss of life or injury caused by an error in using firearms could result in criminal prosecution for those involved.
  • Know your state laws regarding the type of weapon your security force can carry. Many states require an armed security force to be specifically registered and/or licensed by the state.
  • A background check must be performed on anyone who will be armed. No one should carry a fire arm on your campus that has a history of violence.
  • All armed personnel should undergo regular training and weapons qualification. Most states require qualification with the type of weapon used at least once every six months.
  • Identify an appropriate location to secure weapons when not in use. At a minimum a firearms safe with extremely limited access must be required.

Originally posted on GuideOne

© 2023 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved.This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.

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