Right to restrict powers of private security guards

Police officers and private security guards have different and specifically defined roles ("Give security guards power to arrest troublemakers" by Mr Jonathan Chee Fook Heng; Jan 6).

The police are agents of the Government, and their main concern is the welfare and safety of the public.

Private security guards, however, are agents of private companies, and are hired for a fee to protect private property.

Detaining a suspect and arresting him are two different issues.

For example, private security guards can detain suspected shoplifters until the police arrive, but cannot make an arrest.

Singapore laws generally protect police officers from being sued for false arrest so long as there were valid reasons for arresting the suspect.

However, a private security guard and his employer may be sued in a civil court if the guard detains an innocent person.

If private security guards are given powers of arrest, it may open the door to abuse or misuse, as they are not familiar with the Penal Code and criminal procedures.

If they are empowered to arrest troublemakers, would they also be allowed to search people and property?

The fact remains that security guards are ordinary citizens. Hence, they should have restricted power to act.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2017, with the headline 'Right to restrict powers of private security guards'. Print Edition | Subscribe