A business improvement district (BID) in downtown L.A. has hired private security guards for many years to patrol the shopping district. The conduct of these officers leaves some people wondering if security guard training requirements need to include specifics about handling protesters. This security officers wear purple polo shirts; giving them the nickname “The Shirts.” Reaction to the private patrol is mixed. Some people like the improved safety and others think the patrols over step their legal authority; trying to be like police.
In an occupy L.A. video from 2011, it appears that the baton-wielding private patrol joins forces with police to confront and arrest protesters. The police said that police do not mix with private security during protest situations because private security officers do not receive the same level and type of training as police officers. However, the patrols are often used to assist with crowd control.
If the police invite or encourage the private officers to join the confrontation, then the private patrol is “acting under color of law”, which makes each of them personally responsible for harm/damages in court. The State can’t invoke Sovereign Immunity for a non-State-appointed-actor. However, the police can’t stop them from helping like a good Samaritan as long as they’re act with due diligence for the law. And remember from your security guard licensing training in California, that licensed guards only have the same powers any private citizen has; you’re not a cop.
At the time of this protest (2011), Universal Protection Services supplied the guards. The security guards are trained iwith 40-hours of State required training plus training in customer service, drug abuse recognition, crowd control, traffic control, safety, etc for a total of 300 hours of security training. The security officers provide traffic and crowd control services, various demonstrations, and more.
Business districts hiring private patrols is a trend that will continue as long as public police departments are understaffed due to budget constraints.