The Ontario Private Security Industry
Private security in Ontario refers to anyone performing full-time security-related work, other than those working for an actual police service.
This means uniformed guards working at construction sites, shopping malls, apartment buildings, or a thousand other places. It also includes people who may or may not be in uniform, like bodyguards, bouncers, and others who provide security at hotels and universities. These last categories, most notably bouncers, have only recently become regulated as private security professions, and this is one of several major changes to the industry.
(Armored truck employees don't fall under private security regulations in Ontario, as their job is simply to move money around, and they don't provide security-related work other than to protect the money they're moving around. Private Investigators have unique training requirements and regulations that are different than Security Guards, as they generally work deceptively and "under cover", which is the opposite of what Security Guards do.)
The New Act & Regulations
The "Private Security & Investigative Services Act" took effect in Ontario on April 15, 2010. (It had been in development since 2005, was formalized in 2006, some regulations were implemented August 23rd 2008, more on August 23rd 2009, and training and testing regulations became enforced as of April 15, 2010.)
A primary goal of this Act is to help the public more clearly distinguish between private security workers and police officers. As such, many of the new regulations are guidelines for the appearance of security vehicles, uniforms, and terminology.
Gone are the days when Security Guards are able to dress like, act like, and pretend to be police officers. This is a welcome change within the industry, as it will weed out those individuals who don't understand or respect the role of a private security employee.
The Act also brings the Ontario security industry in line with other provinces in terms of regulations and education standards that have been in place for several years.
The Act sets out new training and testing requirements. There is now a mandatory 40-hour Security Guard course, and a written test to pass before you can get a licence to work as a guard in Ontario. (There is new mandatory training and testing for Private Investigators as well.)
The Security Guard Course & Test
Since April 15, 2010, anyone wishing to work as a Security Guard in Ontario is required to take a 40-hour course (approx. $250), pass a multiple-choice test ($75.15), and apply for a licence ($80).
Security Guard Course Information
You need to be aware that anyone, without any experience or background, is allowed to teach the security course. This is very surprising, so be cautious of people trying to make a buck from this. Be careful with in-house courses offered by security companies and businesses where the "teacher" has never taught anything to anyone in their life before. Some even trick you into taking the training by promising you a job afterwards, but then give you one shift a week in some remote location.
It's unfortunate that anyone can teach the course. The only requirement set out by the Ministry is that you send in your name and let them know that you're teaching it. There is no oversight, no inspection of the teaching materials or methods, and no checking of the instructor's education or credibility. Anyone who claims to be Ministry "approved", or "endorsed", or "certified", or "licensed" is lying to you. The Ministry does not approve or endorse anyone, they only keep a reference list of everyone who has told them they are teaching the course.
One drawback with a classroom course is they are only offered about once a month, plus you have to get there every day on their schedule. A terrific alternative is online security training, such as the Trillium Training security guard course. It's the same 40-hour training required by the Ministry and instructors are available, but you can start anytime, go through the course on your own schedule, do it at home or work, as fast or slow as you want. You don't have to disrupt your daily routine, or wait until the next class starts, or feel pressured in a room full of strangers.
How Private Security is Different Than Police
Private security companies are hired by businesses, municipalities, and individuals to provide specific security-related services. This could be a wide variety of things like on-site guards, routine vehicle patrols of a business through the night, escorting people or valuables, parking control and ticketing, house inspections while on vacation, or responding to alarms. Whatever it is, those duties are carried out based on confidential written contracts between the security company and the client.
Community police services are responsible to the entire population of the jurisdiction they serve. This means they must respond to any and all security and safety situations as they arise. This can include traffic accidents, fights, drug dealers, graffiti, broken windows, noise complaints, reports of weapons, prostitution, domestic abuse, stolen vehicles, and anything else you could imagine.
There are many advantages to hiring private security compared to relying only on police. Police could be busy with any number of issues as mentioned above, and will only be able to respond to a residential or business alarm once higher priorities are resolved and a unit becomes available. In contrast, alarm dispatches are typically the highest possible priority for private security companies. This means response times can be much faster, which is critical when your home or business is being broken into. Many police forces charge fees of hundreds of dollars for false alarm calls. And of course police can't provide home inspections or other specialized and scheduled services.
If a private security employee discovers that a break-in or other crime has occured, police will be called to assume control so they can begin an investigation, make a formal arrest, or whatever the case may be. An added bonus is that when police are called to attend a confirmed incident or a crime in progress, they will dispatch with far greater urgency than a routine call for service.
Private Security & Community Police Complement Each Other
Private security companies don't need to worry about all the things that community police deal with. This means they can focus on performing a few types of security service very well.
Having specific clients means that security companies often hold keys and have alarm codes for their clients' property, as well as a list of people to contact and details about their property or facilities that can be crucial when investigating an alarm or conducting a patrol. Without keys and site-specific information, police are unable to do interior patrols for alarm calls unless they find an unsecure door or window to enter through. Even then, they may encounter dangerous or unusual situations they don't expect, and they can't reset the alarm panel prior to leaving.
On the flipside, police don't have to waste their time with a bunch of small routine security services when they've got more important things to do. Security Guards are like a second set of eyes and ears for the police, spread throughout the community. That extra security presence helps reduce crime, but the police are still necessary when crimes do occur. So these two different roles, public and private, work together to accomodate the various security needs of businesses and citizens in a community.