Requirements for security guards and private investigators
Learn about the requirements and responsibilities of a security guard or private investigator.
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Security guards are responsible for guarding or patrolling to protect people or property. Private investigators are responsible for conducting investigations to provide information. Both are expected to carry out their work professionally, effectively, safely and lawfully.
Licence and misrepresentation
All security guards and private investigators must follow all requirements including:
- identify themselves as such
- carry their applicable licence when they are on duty
- show their licence to anyone who asks to see it, including employers, police and members of the public
For security guards, this applies even when they are on plainclothes assignments, or working as bodyguards or loss prevention security guards. Failure to present a valid licence when requested can result in a fine.
Security guards and private investigators can be fined if they misrepresent or call themselves:
- a detective or private detective
- law enforcement
Exemptions to carry a licence
There are exemptions from the requirement to carry a licence. Out-of-province bodyguards providing services to those in the film and television industry do not need an Ontario licence if the bodyguard holds a valid licence from another jurisdiction.
In addition, the following individuals do not need a licence from the Ministry of the Solicitor General:
- practicing barristers or solicitors
- people who receive payment for work that consists mainly of searching for and providing information about:
- the financial credit rating of individuals
- the qualifications and suitability of people applying for insurance and indemnity bonds
- the qualifications and suitability of people as employees or prospective employees
- people who are acting as peace officers
- insurance adjusters, insurance companies and their employees licensed under the Insurance Act while acting within the regular scope of their employment
- people living outside Ontario who are licensed employees of a private investigation agency licensed or registered in a jurisdiction outside Ontario, but elsewhere in Canada who:
- on behalf of a person living outside Ontario, make an investigation or inquiry partly outside Ontario and partly within Ontario
- come into Ontario solely for the purpose of that investigation or inquiry
- people who are paid for work that consists mainly of providing advice about security requirements but who are not selling the services of private investigators or security guards
- people who are paid for work that consists mainly of providing an armoured vehicle service
- any class of people exempted by the regulations
There is a general exemption for those conducting an investigation authorized by another federal or provincial act.
Carrying firearms and equipment
Security guards and private investigators may use equipment as a part of their duties if it is issued by their employer. They may carry:
- a firearm if they have a valid firearms licence
- a baton, if it is only used for defensive purposes
While on duty, armed security guards and private investigators must always carry their firearms licence and present it upon request, as required by the Firearms Act.
The Use of Animals regulation permits the use of dogs for patrolling purposes but only under certain conditions. Dogs can also be used for tracking (for example, missing persons) and detection purposes (for example, drugs and explosives).
Dog handlers must keep their dog on a leash at all times.
Security guards cannot use dogs for crowd control.
Any violations to the requirements can result in penalties, including:
- fines to the security guard, their employer, or both
- jail time
Reporting a crime
If a crime, such as theft, occurs at a business while a security guard is on duty, the security guard or the business should contact their local police service to report it.
Uniform appearance for security guards
Security guards are required to wear uniforms that include key elements on the outermost garment.
On the front of the uniform
On the chest of the uniform, there must be:
- an identification tag with the individual’s full name or licence number visible
- the name, logo or crest of the organization that employs the security guard visible
- the words “security” or “security guard” in a colour that stands out
On the back of the uniform
On the back of the uniform (including on any pieces of outerwear like rain or winter jackets and on protective wear like Kevlar vests), there must be the words “security or “security guard” in a colour that stands out.
The words “security” or “security guard” do not have to appear if the outermost garment is a:
- collared shirt
Elements that cannot be included on uniforms
Uniforms for security guards cannot include:
- rank chevrons
- black or navy blue collared shirts
- striped pants or trousers
- police-style forage caps
Exceptions to wearing uniforms only apply for security guards who are hired for
- loss prevention
- theft protection
- plain clothes assignments
However, they are still required to present their security guard licence upon request.