Does arming private security guards guarantee better protection?

On December 29, 2017, the law was changed regarding the traditional framework of activities for private security companies. It now provides for the carrying of firearms for certain security agents in areas deemed vulnerable to terrorist attacks. 

But rest assured, the law provides for the use of armed force only for self-defense. And it requires justification of the risk for the person being protected.

What are some of the problems imposed by armed guards?

First, the question of recruiting and training these private sector agents must be addressed. Which service providers can carry out this sort of mission? And how much will it cost?

Private security is currently still a niche business. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people are involved in this activity, compared to the 180,000 agents who are currently involved in prevention mission activities.

According to Claude Tarlet, President of the Union des Entreprises de Security Privée (Coalition of Private Security Companies), two things are required for the proper execution of this law:

  • The training must be identical to that which is offered to police with respect to all types of weapons.
  • The men and women must be psychologically and physically sound enough to handle a weapon.

Training

Training is essential in this line of work. Especially if we consider that an officer in training receives only three sessions of 90 rounds for ongoing training each year. In addition, shots are fired at stationary targets. This is often quite different from reality, and doesn’t factor in stress during high-risk situations.

Experience

In the French army, the age of retirement is around 40 years of age, and some are even eligible at the age of 35, so there’s a pool of people with expertise in weapons handling that can be drawn from.

Experience must also include the enhancement of this profession through the provision of increased skills as well as appropriate laws that supervise and protect the security guard in the course of his or her duties.

A private security guard typically earns approximately 18-20 euros per hour. Armed private security guards, such as those who work for the SUGE (SNCF General Surveillance), earn nearly 80 euros.

What about international legislation?

Alexandre Hollander is the President of Amarante International (the European leader of security for high-risk areas). He recalls that in France, only one company has been appointed to protect tourist sites around Paris through the use of armed guards. Yet, French bodyguards can only carry weapons outside of France. By contrast, foreign bodyguards have the right to carry weapons in France.

In the United States as in Israel, all private security guards are armed.

In Algeria, security can only be handled by specialized companies that are 100% owned by the state.

Nigerian policemen are requisitioned by companies to ensure their protection for a daily fee.

Belgium has more flexible laws. In fact, private security guards ensure the protection of international organizations like NATO, as well as military bases (and in particular, American military bases) within a perfectly legal framework.

However, numerous questions remain. Which types of institutions can use these types of services? What will public reaction be to the increased presence of armed individuals in public spaces?

Today more than ever, the public has a need to feel protected, but it’s not for certain that this is the right way to go about accomplishing this. One might wonder if we’re moving toward a system that’s modeled on the American system: a type of armed society in which the state is no longer the sole custodian of armed forces, but one that increasingly leaves its citizens to ensure their own protection.

 

To read: Safe City or surveillance city: when technology triggers debate!