The business of security, Part I: How to start and manage your own security company

With increased federal funding and nationwide attention, there's never been a better time to start a private security company. Homeland security holds many opportunities for professionals in a variety of fields such as health care, technology, transportation, business, entertainment, and sales.

This is the first installment of several on the business of security, and the many economic opportunities currently open to active, retired or reserve officers.

People in law enforcement have a love/hate relationship with private security. Most private security people lack the necessary screening or rigorous training to do a proper job. Yet most law enforcement personnel usually do some kind of security work during their careers. From estate security to body guarding, and everything in between, most officers before, during or after their career somehow get involved with private security.

And for good reason. After all, modern policing grew out of private security concerns. Crime prevention has become a major issue in our society. A greater burden is being placed on public police forces to respond to crisis situations. As a result, the consumer is turning to the private security industry to help protect our neighborhoods and businesses.

Moreover, this trend shows no sign of abating. With such deep cutbacks in public spending in recent years, many law enforcement jobs have simply been eliminated or privatized. In fact, according the American Society of Industrial Security, demand for security services is growing at stellar, 6% rate a year in our post 9/11 climate.

Will the trend continue? It certainly looks that way. So the real question is, how can we personally benefit from this great increase in demand for more security services, and which business should we ultimately choose to go into?

In California, the Department of Consumer Affairs licenses private patrol operators, private investigators, alarm company operators, repossession agencies, and locksmiths, and certifies their training facilities and instructors.

Each of these businesses has a bright future. Personal insecurity, financial instability and the complexity of modern society all are increasing the demand for such services. Licensing and certification not only ensure that the business operator and specific employees have passed a criminal background check and have met DCA requirements, but also restrict the supply of each, which in turn becomes a barrier to entry. This is both good and bad. Bad for the consumer but good for the potential business owner.

Private patrol operators in California provide services to protect persons and/or property in accordance with a contractual agreement.

Private investigators conduct investigations for individuals, businesses, attorneys, insurance companies, and public agencies within the areas of civil, criminal, and domestic investigations.

Alarm company operators sell alarms on private or business premises and install, service, maintain, monitor, and respond to burglar alarms. These services are provided to individuals, businesses, and public entities.

Repossession agencies repossess personal property on behalf of a credit grantor when a consumer defaults on a conditional sales contract that contains a repossession clause.

Locksmiths install, repair, open, modify, and fabricate keys for locks. These services are provided to private individuals, businesses, and public entities. Individuals who duplicate keys from blank stock are not required to be licensed as locksmiths.

Training facilities offer courses to private investigators, private patrol operators, guards, alarm company operators and their employees. Students are taught the proper carrying and usage of firearms and batons in relation to their licenses or registrations.

All managers of security companies must meet certain requirements. According to DCA, the manager in charge of the private security-related business must be a DCA-qualified manager.

A qualified manager must pass an oral and/or written exam given by DCA, pass a criminal background check, and provide proof of qualifying experience in the security industry. A qualified manager is the responsible person for the business-the first point of contact when the consumer has a question about the services being provided.

Security guards cannot contract as sole proprietors-a private patrol operator must employ them. Private patrol operators can work as security guards as long as they are qualified managers of private patrol operator-licensed businesses. All private security-related business employees under DCA jurisdiction must carry a pocket license at all times.

The laws, rules and regulations that apply to security guards apply to bodyguards in California. A bodyguard who works in civilian clothes with a concealed weapon must possess a guard card, an exposed firearm permit and either possess a CCW, or be an honorably retired peace officer with an endorsement to carry a concealed weapon, or be an active duty peace officer.

In California, only a licensed private patrol operator (PPO) may contract to perform security guard or bodyguard services to any person or business. An active duty peace officer with a guard card and an exposed firearm permit issued by DCA may perform armed security guard (bodyguard) duties only as a security guard employee.

Taking the first step toward obtaining a private patrol operator's license will almost invariably guarantee the law enforcement officer-turned-bodyguard a greater opportunity to make more money, have greater control over his work, and eventually branch out into bigger and better things.

Related Column:

The Business of Security Part II: Bodyguard Licensing and Training Requirements

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