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Licensing Requirements for Private Security
Written by L. D. Borgens   
Monday, 23 November 2009 13:43

This is not likely a topic you think about often but these easy-to-follow tips can save you from headaches, financial loss and liability if you hire private security, work as a security officer or executive protection agent or are interested in working in the California security industry.

Following these guidelines and checklist will ensure that you never run afoul of BSIS or Consumer Affairs.



California State Licensing Requirements:

The State of California requires that any person or company that provides private security, loss prevention, executive protection, private investigations or security officer training services must be licensed by the State.  These licensing requirements are among the most stringent in the nation with significant penalties for anyone found to be in violation.

To find a list of companies and individuals that have been found operating outside of State requirements see the BSIS Enforcement Actions website.


Licensing Requirements for Security Companies:

Private patrol companies employ uniformed and plainclothes security officers, loss prevention personnel and executive protection agents and dispatch them to protect persons or property or to prevent theft.

Any person or company providing security, protective or loss prevention services must be licensed by the State.  This license is called a Private Patrol Operator license or “PPO”.  PPO licenses are issued by the California State Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.  Anyone providing these services whether in uniform or plainclothes as an independent contractor (not your employee) is required to possess a valid PPO issued by the State.

Anyone that provides these services that does not possess a valid PPO is committing a crime under California State Business and Professions Codes.

Anyone providing services related to security, protective or loss prevention, no matter what the service is called or what the person looks like is required to possess a valid PPO.  If the person is performing a job function that requires a State license then they MUST BE LICENSED.  Sometimes a company or individual will offer these services under a different name or appearance and say that a PPO is not required.  This is illegal.

The safety and security of your customers, employees, products, property and assets depends upon the private security vendor that you choose to hire and you should REQUIRE your security vendor to provide you with a copy of their PPO and then click here to verify their license.

  • Your security vendor MUST possess a valid PPO.
  • Make them provide you with a copy of their PPO.
  • Go to the BSIS website to verify the PPO is valid.

Registration Requirements for Security Employees & Agents:

All employees whose job duties include a security, protective or loss prevention function, whether in uniform or plainclothes, whether they are an employee of your security vendor (PPO) or your own employee (Proprietary), must undergo a State required background check and submit fingerprints to State and Federal authorities from California Department of Justice and FBI.  Additionally, employees of a PPO must also undergo State mandated training requirements.  Once these conditions are satisfactorily completed the employee will receive a registration certificate from the State.

The registration certificate for an employee of a PPO is called a “Guard Card”.  Anyone working for a PPO in a security, protective or loss prevention function are required to possess a valid Guard Card at all times while on duty.  Failure to produce a Guard Card upon demand is punishable by a fine and administrative action from the State for both the security officer AND the PPO.  To verify a Guard Card please click here.

The registration certificate for a Proprietary Security Officer (your own employee) is called a PSO and can be can be verified here.

Individual Security Officers MAY NOT enter into an agreement (contract) to provide security services unless they also possess a valid PPO.  Anyone providing security, protective or loss prevention services with only a Guard Card (and no PPO) is committing a crime under California State Business and Professions Codes.

To ensure that the security officer being provided by your PPO are properly trained, have received a background check and are registered with the State request a copy of each officers Guard Card then verify them on the BSIS website.

Requirements for Armed Personnel:

Security officers, alarm company employees, private investigators & executive protection agents, whether they are employees of a PPO or your own employees, may not carry a weapon unless they also have in their immediate possession a valid a Firearms Qualification card & Guard Card issued by BSIS .  The BSIS issued firearms card must also indicate they are qualified in the same caliber of firearm they are carrying.  Off duty law enforcement officers who are working as security or personal protection must also comply with this requirement.

A concealed firearm may not be carried unless the security officer or protective agent also possess a valid CCW (Carry Concealed Weapon) issued by their local law enforcement agency.

Failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence and will likely result in immediate arrest and eventual prosecution and revocation of any permits or licenses issued by BSIS.

To ensure that armed security personnel are properly registered request a copy of each officers Firearms Qualification card and then verify them on the BSIS website.

Permits for Other Weapons:

The State of California also requires permits for:

  • Tear Gas
  • Pepper Spray
  • Baton

In all cases the security officer or protective agent must have a valid permit for these weapons in their immediate possession while they are carrying the weapon(s).

Additional Weapons and Security Accessories:

Currently BSIS does not require a permit for:

  • TASER
  • Stun Gun
  • Handcuffs

Although security officers may attend training for these items and receive a certificate of training in their use and deployment, neither the certificate nor the training is required by BSIS.

You are, however, prudent to require your PPO provide proof of training for these items if you choose to allow them to be carried by security officers on your property.

City or County Business License:

Cities and counties require that business operating in their jurisdiction possess a current business license and many times people hiring private security mistake the city business license for the PPO issued by BSIS.

Remember that any company you hire to perform private security must provide you with both a PPO issued by BSIS and a business license issued by your local municipality.

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