The use of private security guards and police by such entities as businesses and school campuses to protect their property, employees, and students has grown rapidly since the early 1980s. The authority of these guards, sometimes known disparagingly as "rent-a-cops," depends upon the employer and the type of security involved. Some guards are considered private employees of security firms and possess no more authority than an ordinary citizen. Other guards, such as campus police officers, are given specific authority to serve as peace officers by state law.
Private investigation firms predate the formation of the United States. During the nineteenth century and early part of the twentieth century, these firms often were employed by private companies for such purposes as breaking strikes, infiltrating LABOR UNIONS, and investigating robberies and other crimes. By the 1930s, however, the industry was in decline, and from the 1930s to the 1970s, public law enforcement officers were more prevalent than private guards.
By the early 1980s, the private security industry began to expand, and by the early 1990s, it was one of the largest growing industries in the United States. Private guards and police personnel now outnumber the total number of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers combined. Moreover, an estimated 150,000 regular police officers moonlight as private security guards. Some municipal police departments supply regular police officers to businesses and private individuals, and then pay the officers from the proceeds of the arrangement.
One of the most ubiquitous private security officers is the campus or university police officer. Institutions of higher education are generally under a duty to provide reasonable security measures to protect their students. Many states designate these private officers with powers and authority similar or analogous to regular police officers, particularly at state institutions, but also at some larger private institutions. Some campus police departments also make arrangements with local police departments to cooperate in investigating campus crimes. Under the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act, Pub. L. No. 101-542, 104 Stat. 2381, all COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES that receive federal financial assistance are required to publish and distribute campus security policies and crime statistics to current students, employees, and the...