California Licensing Requirements for Private Security

This article will give cover California security guard licensing requirements.  All the information you need to ensure you’ve got the licenses, certificates & registrations required to save you from headaches, financial loss, liability and suspension of your State registration, permits & licenses.  Here are some easy-to-follow tips to ensure you don’t get in trouble with the California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS).

Who Needs To Be Licensed?

California Business & Professions code states that anyone that works in security is required to be registered with the State.  For security officers this is a called a Guard Registration Card or Gard Card.  This helps ensure public safety by allowing only people that have been properly trained, fingerprinted and background checked by the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations to work in security.  Once these conditions are satisfactorily completed you will receive your Guard Card from BSIS.

The follow jobs require a Guard Card:

  • Uniformed security officers
  • Plain clothed security officers
  • In-house security
  • proprietary security officers
  • Executive protection agents
  • Event staff
  • Weapon screeners
  • Bouncers
  • Protective agent
  • Night watchman
  • Any other position requiring a security activity to be performed in the course of employment.

The law says ANYONE that performs a security function as a part of their employment must possess a valid Guard Card.  It doesn’t matter if the person wears a uniform or not or the name of their position, it only matter what their activity is.  As far as BSIS is concerned; if they look like a security officer or act like a security officer or do something that a security officer does then they are a security officer and must be have a Guard Card.

California licensing requirements for security officers are among the most stringent in the nation with significant penalties for anyone found to be in violation.  To verify a security license or registration search the BSIS website:

California Security Guard Licensing Requirements

Security officers with only a Guard Card MAY NOT enter into an agreement (contract) to provide security services, doing so is a crime.  To be a security contractor you must also possess a valid PPO (Private Patrol Operator) license.  This is the license that BSIS issues to security companies.

You are required to have a valid Guard Card in your possession any time you are working as a security officer.  Failure to have your Guard Card is punishable by a fine and administrative action.  If you work for an in-house security department then you must have a (Proprietary Security Officer (PSO) registration.

How Do I Get My Guard Card?

It’s a simple process to get your guard card.

  1. Take the Guard Card Course – This course is eight hours of training that can be completed online or in person. It consists of two classes:
    • Powers to Arrest – Laws & rules of private person’s arrest.
    • Weapons of Mass Destruction – Education on the tools & tactics of terrorists.
  2. Submit Fingerprints – Go to your nearest LIVESCAN facility and submit your fingerprints.
  3. Submit Your Application – Go to the BSIS website and submit your Guard Card application. Have the following items ready:
    • Credit card
    • LIVESCAN form
    • Guard Card course certificate of completion
  4. Check the BSIS Website – Once your Guard Card is approved you’ll be able to see it online.

Requirements for Armed Personnel:

Possession of a Guard Card alone does not allow you to carry a firearm on duty.  You must also possess a valid Firearms Permit issued by BSIS.  The firearms permit also indicates the caliber of firearm you are permitted to carry.  Off duty law enforcement working as a security officer must also comply with this requirement.  A concealed firearm may not be carried unless the officer also possesses a valid CCW (Carry Concealed Weapon).

Permits for Other Weapons:

Security officers must also possess a certificate of training to carry:

  • Tear Gas
  • Pepper Spray
  • Baton

Additional Weapons and Security Accessories:

Currently BSIS does not require a permit, certificate or registration for:

  • 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.

Following these simple guidelines will ensure that you always have the correct registration, permit or certificate for the job you’re hired to do!

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