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detainment by private security on private property

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Connecticut

I am a non-police, non-arrest powered campus safety officer at a private college in Connecticut . We are advised by our management that we are not required, even under the new laws regarding private security personnel, to hold a state or federal issued license to perform our duties. We are not armed and carry no equipment for detainment such as handcuffs, etc. Yet, are expected to protect life and property on campus. We frequently have to interact with intoxicated, uncooperative and sometimes physically aggressive people, often when they are under the influence of some sort of substance, alcohol or otherwise.

Question: What criteria would apply legally speaking (civil and criminal) regarding my responsibilities and limitations surrounding the subject of detaining a suspect pending Police arrival on the scene; ie: how can a detainment be justified in this environment? Under what circumstances is a detainment appropriate and justifiable? If the detained is a military (Coast Guard Cadet) person, and they are party to a disturbance on our private campus, and refuse to stop when ordered and instead re-enter a dormitory and we pursue and physically take hold of that person (carefully and only as much as necessary to keep him from proceding further into the dormitory), and then they lie about their name and school affiliation when we attempt to identify them… have we then overstepped our bounds or are we within our rights and obligations performing this detaiinment to protect the campus community?


Senior Member
First, what is the policy of your department and the university? Does that policy state - IN WRITING - that you have a duty to detain these people and how you are supposed to accomplish this? Even if you were to act within the scope of the law, if you act outside the scope of your employer's policy, you can get sued or, possibly, even charged criminally under the right set of circumstances.

I'm not going to go wading through CT's statutes, because there are too many possible variables to take into account and I am unfamiliar with your state's laws. But, you need to act within the scope of the law AND your employer's rules. Private security is rarely expected to protect life and property, their job is generally to "observe and report". You are likely not trained or equipped sufficient to safely make a detention of a resisting, combative, inebriated, or tripping (high) subject. To do so places you at personal risk and your employer at great risk of civil liability.

If I had no safety equipment and little to no training, I would not be approaching suspects, I would be calling the police from a safe distance.

I did a random check of CT college campus security policies, and I found none that indicated they actually made arrests or anything close to police contacts unless they involved sworn officers. I suspect that your policy is similar.

- Carl

You Are Guilty

Senior Member
I would be shocked if the school wanted any physical contact between security and any threats. 99%+ of the time, as Carl noted, you are to call 911 and keep an eye on, but do not detain, the folks causing trouble until the police get there.

Although you do retain your "citizen's arrest" power even while acting as a security guard, you are not going to want to exercise it UNLESS there is a direct, unprovoked attack upon your own person. At that point, you can defend yourself. But since that's a rather unlikely scenario, most of the time you just need to hang back and keep the police updated as to where the problem is.

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