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What Is the Difference Between a Police Officer and a Security Guard?

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Police officers and security guards share a major common purpose: to protect the public and/or its property. However, there are differences between the two occupations.


Security guards work either directly for a security company or for a specific business. Police officers are commissioned by their local or state governments and are employed by them.


Security guards normally need only a high school diploma or equivalent to be hired; police departments prefer applicants who have college degrees in criminal justice or pre-law. Security guards often are interviewed, hired and employed on their first patrol within days, while police officers go through thorough background checks and intense training in police academies.

Basic Roles

The basic role of a security guard is to protect the property and people of the business that employs him. A public police officer is sworn to protect all people and property, and is authorized to enforce the laws of his city and county.

Authority to Arrest

While security guards do have the power to apprehend and detain non-violent suspects such as shoplifters, only police officers can serve arrest warrants and make legal arrests.


Police officers can enter and conduct legal searches of private buildings and houses. Security guards are confined to patrolling and securing only the businesses or property assigned them by their employer.