law enforcement

Sworn versus Non-Sworn Officers

Billy Gordon Green, Jr. M.Ed., CPP, CHSSecurity Program Development


officerThe human component of an integrated security plan can be in one or more of several forms. These forms become choices that need to be addressed depending on the mission, environment, culture, population, and security philosophy of the organization and specifically the site to be protected.

Probably the most profound choice in the paradigm is between sworn and non-sworn officers. A sworn officer is one who is duly authorized under statute as a law enforcement officer of competent jurisdiction at the facility or site. As such, the officer must be part of a commissioned police agency or sheriff’s department.

The police power entrusted to a sworn officer is reserved for violations of law. There is no additional power over a facility population related to enforcing of rules and regulations that are not codified as part of the state law and local ordinances. This authority offers little advantage in performing the traditional roles of the security officer. On campuses with resident populations, in effect miniature cities, there is an advantage to using sworn police as a additional protection in that they can enforce law without calling for assistance from the jurisdiction. Routine security duties do not require enforcing law and ordinances, and this authority does not enhance the effectiveness of the security program in most other kinds of facilities. The one possible exception would be a facility that is extraordinarily remote with little police service available for emergency response. Sworn status expands the duty of the officer to that of a public officer in the jurisdiction, thereby creating the potential for conflict between the interests of the site and those of the public at large.

Non-sworn security officers are trained to focus on proactive security procedures and processes as opposed to reactive enforcement of law and the complexities of this role. If a facility is within the jurisdiction of a well-organized and staffed law enforcement agency, sworn, trained police service is immediately available through 911. In most circumstances, if the need arises for sworn officers to reinforce or augment the security force in non-emergency situations, they can be obtained from the local department as off-duty, part-time assistance.

These are not subtle differences, and the expectations of the security program should be carefully examined with regard to the benefit of officers having arrest power.

What are the other decisions that must be made?

Armed or Unarmed

Uniformed versus Non-uniformed

Proprietary or Contract

Sworn or Non-sworn

Full-time or Part-time


Plan. Protect. Prosper.

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