Property and asset owners will go to any lengths to protect what’s theirs. While the law recognizes the need and duty to do the same, carelessness or negligence on the part of security guards can put the owners in the wrong quickly.
The law suggests that companies and individuals are allowed to take security measures to protect their property from crime. However, at the same time, it also suggests that if people are allowed access to the grounds, it is the company’s responsibility to look out for the safety of visitors as well.
This usually includes taking reasonable care by instituting security measures that would – under normal circumstances – be sufficient. In case something happens out of the ordinary and the owner has implemented reasonable security measures, they may not be held liable for any further damage.
If the property or asset owner hasn’t undertaken any security measure, they are held liable unless specifically mentioned that the public should visit the place at their own risk. However, theproblem is stationing security guards or security measures that are negligent. If someone gets injured as a result of this negligence, the owner may be subject to a lawsuit and subsequent liability.
Implications of Negligent Security Guards
Before we get into the details of negligent security guards, let us consider an example.
You own a squash court and hire Mark, an ex-military security contractor, to monitor the premises at night. It is Mark’s job to patrol the squash court during operational hours and at closing time to make sure there are no players still at the premises. If they are, he is supposed to escort them out, make sure nothing is out of place, and lock the doors for the night.
One night, Mark locks up as he does every night but was on a call when walking through the premises. As it happens, Bill was in there playing alone as he usually does but lost track of time because he was so deeply engrossed. Since Mark was preoccupied, he didn’t realize Bill was still inside and locks the premises for the night.
In this case, if Bill decides to sue Mark for False Imprisonment(a tort), Bill will most likely lose because it was a mistake on Mark’s behalf. He didn’t lock Bill inside intentionally. However, even though there was no intentional tort, there was negligence on part of Mark. If Bill decides to sue him for that, it won’t be a public matter but civil litigation. Not only Mark but you will also be held liable and made to pay Bill damages for the mental and physical anguish he went through.
This would be even more problematic if Bill got locked on a weekend!
Negligent security refers to when a bodily or mental injury is suffered – which typically includes an assault, other crime, or mental stress — that could have been avoided if the right security measures had been in place or if the security guards present following security protocols to the letter.
Negligence is most common at;
• Bars, restaurants, clubs
• Parking lots
• Convenience stores, malls, shops
• Construction sites
• Apartments, offices, hotels, motels
• Stadiums, halls, conference centers, and other venues
• Transit hubs
• Public housing buildings, agency offices, bases
• Schools, colleges, universities,
• Care facilities
• Parking garages and parking lots
• And other areas where security protocols become repetitive.
It is important to note that negligent security guards are more common in places where the staff is equipped with sufficient (or better than sufficient) alarm systems, cameras, gates, and other security systems – not ill-equipped places. When it comes to proving liability on part of either party, these are exactly the type of things attorneys look for.
Negligent Security Cases
Negligent security isn’t just limited to being locked in a squash court, library, or gym but encompasses a large number of eventsunder its hat. Typically, these are crime-related. Most cases against negligent security guards are built on grounds of;
• Being robbed in a store in the presence of a security guard(s)
• Being assaulted while security guard(s) were present
• Battery in front of a security guard(s)
• Burglary or theft
• Rape with a security guard(s) around, and more.
It is important to note here that negligence is only accounted for when the security guard isn’t involved. Where the burden of proof in a court of law lies on the victim to prove negligence, the same lies on the security guard to prove that they weren’t involved.
Another very important consideration in regards to the events above (for them to be considered as a result of negligence) is that the event could have been avoided by the security guard(s) present if adequate security measures were adopted by the security officer, i.e., performing his duty as intended.
In essence, an event becomes grounds for a negligent security case if any party gets hurt in a manner that that injury is a direct result of the property owner’s or the security staff’s negligence. If things could have been done differently, you may be held liable.
Understanding a Typical Security System & How Things Can Go Bad
Basically, security systems and security personnel have three core roles;
This is one of the most important parts of any security officer’s or security system’s job descriptions. Deterrence is done by showing the world the capability of your security system and low-key telling them that if you decide to target us, you will get caught and reprimanded.
This role of security systems and guards can be crudely understood as measures taken to tell criminals that they shouldignore your property.
Usually, stationing a security guard or two may not be enough to prevent a crime. Instead, you may need a security service to increase security and to tell the world about the same as well. The more you continue to increase risks for potential criminals, the more they’ll avoid you.
Limit Criminal Activity
No matter the deterrence, there are chances that criminal activity will still take place. That is where security systems should serve to minimize the impact caused by the crime. For example, if there is a break-in, apart from evident security systems, there should be silent systems that notify guards as well so that the crime can be stopped via security guard intervention.
Security systems and guards work together to provide useful information to owners and investigators. This is done so that more and more information about the criminals can be given to the police to aid the investigation process and lead to a quicker resolution.
What Goes Wrong?
Even with the most robust security systems in place, security measures may fail to do what they are intended to do if the security guards operating it are careless or negligent. This can lead to a bad situation becoming worse as it’s not just liabilities that start to stack up but assets also become useless.
For example, a CCTV camera that isn’t working can introduce a loophole in the infrastructure. If the management decides to save costs and not repair the same, the crime may end up not only reducing the efficacy of the system but also mitigate any chances of intervention should a criminal decide to visit.
Worst-case scenario — security guards may end up mistaking visitors for criminals and harass, injure, or even kill the wrong person!
Who Is Liable?
The first person to whom liability would be transferred would be you, the person who owns the property. This is because you are solely responsible for providing adequate security. You might be exempt, though, if you have transferred the property management responsibilities to a manager, landscaper, or tenant,and they have agreed to be held accountable for the security.
Currently, the law stipulates that the following individuals may be held liable in case of negligent security;
• The property owner
• Security company overseeing security
• The property management company (such as a parking log management company)
• State or municipal government
• If proven, individual security personnel.
At the end of the day, it’s all about whether negligence is proven in a court of law or not. As mentioned above, the burden of proof for inadequate or negligent security falls on the victim. However, there is a checklist that is conferred to by lawyers. If the checklist requirements aren’t met, the individuals mentioned above will be held liable.
Warning Signs of a Careless or Negligent Security Guard
Whether you’re a property owner or someone who manages the property on the owner’s behalf, you should be able to identify a negligent security guard before they end up becoming a liability. Due to the volatile nature of the industry, don’t give guards too many chances. One or two warnings (as per your company policy) should be more than enough.
Some signs that you should be on the lookout for include;
1. Excessive Absenteeism
It’s one thing to take a sick day or two but being absent regularly, especially without informing someone or informing the manager at the last minute, is a surefire way to attractcriminals. Excessive absences from security guards can increase the threat of crime as it tells onlookers that this section of your property is not well-secured or the guard is disgruntled.
This is all a vigilant criminal may need as an excuse to strike!
2. Tardiness From Security Guards
Security guards need to be on time and alert in terms of their roles and responsibilities. A security guard that comes in late or is always in a hurry to leave his post is an indicator that they have more pressing things in mind – even when on the job.
It is a good idea to confront them about this and ask if everything is alright at home.
3. Sleeping on Duty
This is the holy grail of negligence or carelessness on part of security guards since it can give off an unprofessional appearance or lead to late responses – which would give intruders a leg up over your infrastructure.
4. Excessive Smoking on Duty
Security guards often smoke – that much is no problem and, in most cases, it isn’t a big problem. However, guards that smoke a lot may impact their concentration, fitness, or their professional appearance negatively.
5. Drinking on Duty
While smoking on duty isn’t that big of a problem, drinking is. It is immediate grounds for termination as it means that they aren’t as present-minded as they should be. They won’t be able to sense threats and risks and respond as quickly, thus beingnegligent.
6. Leaving Duty Post
Another red flag to keep in mind is a guard who leaves their post too often. The guard could be too busy entertaining people on duty, arguing too much with customers on matters that aren’t a security concern, or simply engaging in unnecessary conversation. Such behavior should indicate that they might not be fit for their role.
There are numerous implications of careless or negligent security guards – each of which results in the manager or owner, i.e., you getting into trouble. The world of security is already expensive enough for employers because of the external threats posed to properties and assets. However, when combined with the internal threat of negligence by your security guards, the venture becomes extremely costly. Not only do you lose out on the money you’re paying as salary to that individual, your property or asset at risk also becomes a liability.
The best way to control negligence is to keep a close eye on your staff and take proactive measures instead of being reactive.