Depending on your situation, the type of environment, the event, the (security) companies that you have available and local restrictions, you may have to choose between hiring off-duty police officers or hiring private security.
Let's take a moment to cover the pros and cons for both of these options so that you have a better understanding of what you may need.
Benefits of Hiring Off-Duty Police Officers:
Police Officers are Highly Trained
Certified Law Enforcement Officers are highly trained in a wide variety of topics relevant to their role in the enforcement of laws including the operations of the judiciary system, evidentiary procedures, traffic laws, search procedures, gang activities, etc. Many of these topics are not relevant in typical situations where you would be placing this person.
They Can Often Generate A Faster Law Enforcement Response If Something Happens
Without exception its safe to say that a police officer generating a call for help on their duty radio is going to get a faster response from other nearby officers than if a security guard places a call through the 911 dispatcher to get assistance.
Know the Law and Are Experienced at Testifying in Court
Police Officers are generally well trained in the law. If you have a situation that reaches the point of an arrest, then that police officer is going to be trained to do everything properly and ensure a victory in court for your organization.
The Police Uniform Commands a Higher Level of Respect & Attention
Police Officers are going to be treated with a little more respect and reverence than a security guard. If it’s a particularly difficult duty location, then that Police Officer’s uniform and badge may well be worth the investment over a security guard.
Benefits of Hiring Security Officers instead:
Security Officers are Usually Less Expensive Than Off-Duty Police Officers
Security Officers, especially unarmed guards, are less expensive than off-duty police officers. Can you justify the higher cost of an off-duty police officer when a security officer might be a better fit for your needs anyway? Usually, an armed security officer is going to cost less than the off-duty police officer. If there is an active shooter event happening at your location, that well-trained armed security officer can respond just as effectively in the first moments.
You should make that armed vs unarmed security guard assessment as part of your decision process.
Security Officers May Have More Discretion in Handling Situations with Your Tenants or Customers
Sometimes, police officers are “locked in” to how they handle a situation. They may be forced to make an arrest for something that your customer is doing on your property even if you would have preferred to handle it another way. There are often grey areas and hiring a security officer allows you, the customer, to have a say in how issues are resolved.
Security Officers Won’t Leave You If Another Crime Is Committed Nearby
If there is a situation in town or near by, it is likely that your police officer will be recalled to duty, leaving you with no coverage. Their loyalty is to the oath they took to protect the community and to the government agency that pays their primary salary. Security Officers are dedicated to your needs and won’t leave you.
More Choice in Selecting Your Security Personnel
In some communities, off-duty assignments for police officers are managed by one senior officer in the department with strict rules on who gets assigned to each post. They may operate on a seniority system, union rules, or on a revolving list. This could mean that you get a different officer each time that doesn’t know the specific needs of your location – or even how to tell a customer where to find the bathroom! Do you want to invest the time at the beginning of each shift orienting a new police officer to your business?
Security Officers Offer the Option to Provide Specific Training to Suit Your Needs
It’s not likely that you will be able to provide specific training to the police officers assigned to your business. Even if they are there consistently, they won’t have the time to dedicate. Working with your security company you can ensure that the security guards assigned to your location are trained to provide service in the manner that you require and to do the things on patrol that serve you best.
Your Need Is “Extra” Duty After the Police Officer Has Worked Their Regular 40 Hours
Off-duty police officers have already worked forty hours (or more) as a police officer. Now, they are working extra hours at your business. Will they always be as attentive to your needs as a Security Guard for whom this is their primary occupation?
What if the Police Officer Gets Hurt on the Job?
If your police officer is injured on your property, is it your workers’ compensation insurance that pays or their employing government agency? If it’s just a slip and fall, rather than enforcing a law, does that change the stance of their regular government agency employer? These are questions that need to be clarified before you hire that off-duty police officer. Talk to your work comp carrier as well as the government agency where the police officer usually works to get clarification (in writing).
If you hire a security officer from a reputable security company then you have no worries that their workers’ compensation will cover that officer’s injuries, no matter the cause.
Paying an Off-Duty Cop by 1099 Adds Risk
If you pay your off-duty police officer by 1099 then that exposes you and the officer to additional risks. Whose liability and workers compensation insurance covers you and the police officer? Additionally, the IRS and the courts have made it clear that they are cracking down on fraudulent 1099 claims. Misclassifying a police officer as an independent contractor exposes your business to penalties from the IRS.
Hiring a Security Guard is Often the Better Choice vs Hiring an Off-Duty Police Officer
The bottom line is that every business needs to evaluate their specific needs. You must weigh the cost of hiring off-duty police officers vs the flexibility and other benefits of hiring private security to determine which is best for your facility.