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, safely and lawfully.
Licence and misrepresentation
Starting September 30, 2023 physical licence cards will no longer be issued and will become digital-only. You will be able to download and print your digital licence once your application is approved.
You must carry a hard copy or digital version of this licence at all times and be prepared to show it upon request.
All security guards and private investigators must follow all requirements including:
- identifying themselves as such
- always carrying their applicable licence when they are on duty
- showing their licence to anyone who asks to see it, including employers, police and members of the public
Failure to present a valid licence when requested can result in a fine.
Security guards hired to conceal their identity to prevent theft or sabotage only need to reveal their identity after they have informed someone who is suspected of committing a crime.
No one with a licence can pretend to offer or provide police-related services and duties. Security guards and private investigators can be fined if they misrepresent or call themselves:
- a detective or private detective
- law enforcement
- special constable
- an officer
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 provides 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 may use equipment as a part of their duties if it is issued by their employer. They may carry:
- a baton, if it is only used for defensive purposes
- a firearm if they have a valid firearms licence and an Authorization to Carry
While on duty, armed security guards must always carry and present upon request their firearms licence and an Authorization to Carry issued by the federal government, as required by the Firearms Act and the Authorizations to Carry Restricted Firearms and Certain Handgun Regulations.
Private investigators may use batons and handcuffs as part of their duties if they are issued by their employer.
The Use of Animalsregulation allows the use of dogs for tracking (for example, missing persons) and detection purposes (for example, drugs and explosives). Security guards can use dogs for guarding or patrolling purposes but only under certain conditions.
Dog handlers must ensure dogs are:
- always kept on a leash
- wearing a fluorescent collar and identification tag that includes the name of the organization employing the security guard
- properly trained for guarding and patrolling
Organizations using dogs must have written rules and guidelines for how to take care and handle them. These documents should be kept and stored for future reference.
Security guards cannot use dogs for crowd control or to pursue and restrain an individual.
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
- blazer, sports jacket or a suit jacket
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 as a bodyguard or for:
- loss prevention
- theft protection
- plain clothes assignments
However, they are still required to present their security guard licence, upon request.
Inspectors routinely review sites where security guards are employed to make sure that security guards have the correct uniform and a valid licence.