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California Security Guard Licensing Law

May 28, 2013 By: Robert Smith


Imagine a bouncer who truly appreciates their role and their limitations during any sort of conflict at your bar or club. And wouldn’t it be fantastic if your security team understood the real meaning of customer service and actually practiced it? Finally, imagine how great you would feel if you could totally trust your team to handle a violent incident correctly with limited hands on force. These are just a few of the reasons the State of California became the first state in the country to mandate all in house security guards or bouncers obtain a state license.

In 2008, I was approached by several hospitality association groups in California and asked to get involved in the process of then, California Senate Bill 194. The industry wasn’t worried about the author of the bill, Senator Maldonado from San Francisco, but instead, they feared the supporters behind the bill, the California security guard industry.

At this time, the only training available for any type of security guard in the state was a 40-hour long, generic, state written training program called the Guard Card. The training had several major issues in it that if used by bar and club operators, could truly come back to hurt them should they be found in civil litigation. Members of the hospitality industry stood up and opposed the Guard Card and the state listened.

It was decided that a committee would be formed to create the basic content of the new state licensing training curriculum. I was selected as the Chairperson for the committee. The remainder of the group was formed of “NON” security guard company representatives such as educators, law enforcement, affected industry representatives and private individuals. As a group, we discussed the opportunity we had and decided to create a very unique curriculum that was not a “One Size Fits All” program that the current Guard Card offered. 

The final curriculum would be 16-hours long. It would consist of 2 hours of Powers to Arrest and 2 hours of Terrorism Awareness and contain 12 hours of broad topics that could be tailored to the many different types of security guards in our state. For example, a guard that worked in a retail establishment could receive training on topics such as theft, robbery, dressing room privacy issues and more. A guard working at a bar or club could receive training on conflict resolution, alcohol liabilities, use of force and more. We decided on a curriculum that truly could meet the demand for having a trained security professional.

This new security guard license consists of two distinct parts. Part one is an individual’s “registration” and part two is their “training”. The registration portion has two parts as well. Part one is a live scan criminal background check through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) AND a registration fee to the State of California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). Once an individual is trained and registered they are considered a Proprietary Private Security Officer or a PSO.

As of January 1, 2011, every “In House” security guard was required to be licensed in the State of California. The penalty for being caught working as an unlicensed guard OR for hiring an unlicensed guard could result in a maximum fine of $5,000.00 dollars to either the individual or the employer. You should also know there might be some confusion among your local law enforcement authorities; they weren’t informed of the new law and are learning as they go, so just be prepared.

Finally, as the Chairperson of the committee that wrote the training curriculum, I was afforded the opportunity to have the curriculum I had been using for 10 years evaluated by the state.  Consequently, my company was awarded the first license to provide the PSO Training in all of California. Our curriculum for our bar or club security guard training consists of Conflict Resolution and Force, Powers to Arrest and Citizen’s Detention, Alcohol Rules and Regulations, Alcohol Liabilities, Recognition of Fake and Borrowed Identification, Recognition of Club Drugs and Narcotics and Terrorism and Disaster Awareness.

Folks, training your staff can do so many things; it can help limit potential problems that can arise, it can improve overall employee morale, and a better-trained employee can make their employer more money!  But now, in the State of California, having your security guards legally licensed and trained is the law.  The benefits can still be realized but now there is no reason whatsoever to wait. 

If there are any questions regarding the California licensing process or the training, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact me directly.


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