Security Officer or Security Guard Transition to a Law Enforcement Career

Security guard training doesn’t shorten the path to become a police officer, and a security guard career is far from an assurance of police academy acceptance. However, a person who has what it takes may find that a security officer career boosts his or her skills, insights, and interview savvy.

There is tremendous difference in the training that individual security officers receive as well as the success they have. It pays to excel.

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The Law Enforcement Qualification Process

Law enforcement agencies have high demands and a very stringent process. A candidate can expect written assessment, physical agility assessment, and psychological assessment. There may be tiered interviews. The City of Grand Junction, Colorado sponsored police officer recruit process includes phone interview, board interview, and executive interview. The Municipality of Anchorage police officer recruit background check process includes interviews with employers and co-workers as well as neighbors and significant others.

While security guard experience won’t change a person’s basic psychology, they can improve one’s ability to respond to particular types of situation – and articulate it in an interview.

Paladin, a Canada-based security agency, notes that security officers don’t have to hypothesize when it comes to knowing how they react to stressful situations: They know.

Learning from Law Enforcement/ Private Security Collaboration

Security officers and police officers have different roles. A security officer, though, may have a better understanding of the role differences than the average persons. Powers and limitations of power is a common security guard topic.

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Security guard duties can include contacting the police. Some professionals are pro-active about developing relationships with police, something that can have two-way benefits in certain types of area. A professional who has worked both sides notes it can be helpful to contact a public relations police officer, making sure to follow established processes (

Experience interacting successfully with police officers can give a security officer insights into the police role — and confidence with regard to tackling the application process.

Some geographic areas have strong collaborations. The document “Trends and Practices in Law Enforcement and Private Security Collaboration” notes some promising practices. Among the partnership systems noted is Minneapolis SafeZone. Minneapolis SafeZone initiatives have included RadioLINK, connecting officers and private security teams through a common radio channel (

Common Skill Sets

Both security officers and police officers take actions that limit the times when force will be necessary. Both need to be alert to situations – and emotions — that can escalate and take steps toward de-escalating. Both roles can require a lot of public contact. Security guards, like police officers, must know what kind of presence to project.

Among the common skills is observing and reporting. This is typically included in security guard training. When an individual takes the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) test, he or she will need to demonstrate skills necessary for report writing.

The following are among the abilities noted by the Arizona Department of Public Health for a law enforcement role:

  • Analyzing situations and determining quick and reasonable action
  • Maintaining composure under stressful circumstances
  • Establishing cooperative working relationships
  • Observing and remembering details
  • Performing physically challenging tasks (running and jumping, pushing and pulling, subduing people)
  • Performing duties in unfavorable weather conditions
  • Inputting and retrieving information on a computer
  • Following directions

Insights from Those Who Have Transitioned

Paladin Security has prepared many security officers who went on to achieve police roles. The organization has a lot to say about what skills help a person make the cut. There are some differences to be expected based on geography, but also some similarities. Canada requires security officers to have 40 hours of training — there are U.S. states that require 40 or more hours, but they’re in the minority. There are of course a lot of similarities in skills needed to be successful. One Paladin employee who made the transition from security officer to police officer noted that tracking crime trends and reviewing video footage were on the list of things he’d done as a security officer (

Paladin suggests would-be police officers work on their skills in areas like conflict resolution, leadership, and verbal and written communication. Good training is key. Another Paladin employee who made the transition shared that his training and his hired role as healthcare security officer gave him relevant experience, including the experience of being in stressful situations in a highly public setting (; he had the opportunity to increase his skills at verbal de-escalation. Among the situations he found himself dealing with were missing persons and threats and intimidation.

Some U.S. organizations have noted their security officers need to be prepared to act in a first responder role. G4S reports that quite a few of their security officers have saved lives through their emergency skills.

Taking on Specialized Roles

In some sectors, roles do blur – and those that have a peace officer in one locale may have a security officer in another. Examples include hospitals and transit authorities.

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Occasionally, agencies do reference security officer experience when describing the experience they favor. One recent example: an ad for a transit officer in the greater Seattle area.

In short, there are many possibilities. Excellence in training and performance may be a stepping stone toward a career in law enforcement. It may instead lead to a specialized role in security – one that a person won’t be quick to give up!

Additional Resources:

A look at preparing for a career in Law Enforcement: How to Become a Police Officer